For many people PE 1)encapsulates their unhappiest memories of school. They look back to 2)blasted, 3)windswept sports fields where shouting PE teachers in ill-fitting 4)tracksuits 5)marshalled unwilling pupils. The classic fictional 6)depiction is the 1969 film 7)Kes, where 8)Brian Glover's Mr. Sugden takes part in a football match as both player and referee, awards himself a penalty and then9)remonstrates with Billy Casper by knocking him into the mud with a wet football.
The popular perception is that something started to change in the culture of sports and physical education in schools in the 1970s. Activities that didn't 10)alienate the unsporty started to 11)chip away at the dominance of competitive team sport. But now there is to be a shift back towards competitive sport. The government is ending the 12)ring-fencing of £162m of funding for School Sport Partnerships, which promoted co-operation in sport and PE provision between schools, as well as inter-school competitions.
Opponents say this will lead to money being used to plug gaps elsewhere in school budgets, but the government is instead focusing on its plans for Olympics-style competitions for schools. But what everybody does agree on is the importance of PE. Adults may look back 13)ruefully to being made to exercise in their underpants or do punishment laps on a field, but few would dispute the long-term benefits. “Getting the regular habit of exercise 14)ingrained controls weight later on in life,” says Dr. Andy Franklyn-Miller, a consultant in sports medicine. His representative body, the British Association of Sport and Exercise Medicine, calls for a health-focused segment to be incorporated into PE lessons.
But it's not just about 15)obesity, Dr. Franklyn-Miller says. Getting used to exercise helps avoid injuries later in life. Even basic routines like improving balance can be vital to developing children. Educational consultant Sue Palmer, author of Toxic Childhood, has seen children arriving in primary school with difficulties with basic movement. “They have really poor physical skills and physical strength. They are coming through ‘16)floppy' because of [early years spent] staring at screens.”
It puts even more of an 17)onus on PE teachers. And they have to make their subject fun. While you might be able to force children to learn something from academic lessons, a string of early Kes-style experiences might make some 18)shun sport in adult life.
Comedian 19)John O'Farrell has unpleasant memories from life at his all-boys school. “My school didn't do football, so I was forced to do rugby. I was small and skinny...was thrown the wet, muddy ball and everyone tried to jump on my head.” Passing the ball immediately, even to the opposition, was O'Farrell's solution. He then tried basketball, but as a late-developer did not like playing in the “skins” team, without shirts. “I tried to shoot for the 20)hoop without revealing my bald, 21)pre-pubescent 22)armpits. The teacher would say ‘Shoot, O'Farrell, shoot…No, not 23)underarm'.” O'Farrell started forging sick-notes from his mother and soon developed a 24)cottage industry performing the same service for other boys.