Karate replaces cross-country in PE shake-up

Ofsted lifts lid on modern games lessons
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The Independent Online

The days of gymslips and singlets in PE lessons and running the 800m in the pouring rain are long gone. Instead, the modern games lesson for the 21st century could be made up of mountain biking, martial arts, dance and yoga.

How pupils are taught physical education has changed, with today's children taking part in a far wider range of activities, Ofsted, the education standards watchdog, says today in a report.

Pupils also have a range of indoor options as alternatives to getting wet playing sport in the rain, it adds.

"Creative approaches to PE not only encouraged pupils not keen on competitive sport but also reduced disaffection and improved engagement [with physical activities]," say inspectors.

In primary schools, "nearly all the schools offered six activity areas – that is, dance, games, gymnastics, swimming and outdoor and adventurous activities. Most of the pupils interviewed said that the curriculum suited their interests."

On secondary schools, Ofsted added: "The vast majority of schools visited provided a good range of enrichment opportunities. These included sports tours, skiing, Pilates, boxer-cise, golf, sailing and horse riding.

"'Street dancing' in one school proved attractive to a group of otherwise disaffected students and resulted in better attendance.

"The rich variety of extra-curricular programmes enabled most students to discover something they liked and wanted to carry on with into adulthood."

The only note of caution comes with the finding that boys are still far more reluctant to take up dancing than girls – only 5 per cent of GCSE entries in the subject came from boys.

So far so good, then – especially with the Government's drive to promote a healthy lifestyle among young people.

However, there is a caveat – the days of a pupil turning up with a doctor's note saying that he or she is excused from games for some spurious reason has not quite evaporated.

"In every school visited, a small number of students were reluctant to participate," the report adds.

"Schools and parents cannot afford to ignore this and it is a challenge for everyone involved in the health and well-being of young people."

In addition, while primary schools and the early years of secondary schooling were complying with the Government's exhortation that there should be at least two hours of physical activity a week, participation in exercise for children as they came nearer to taking exams such as GCSEs tailed off.

Half the secondary schools failed to meet the Government's participation target for 14- to 16-year-olds.

Ofsted says the results of the inspection, which found that two-thirds of lessons in primary school and more than three-quarters in secondary schools were "good or outstanding", show that British pupils are squaring up to the challenge of getting fit by the time of the London Olympics in 2012. "This report provides an encouraging picture of young people's enjoyment and achievement in PE and sport," said Christine Gilbert, chief inspector and Ofsted chief executive.

"The challenge is for all schools to find enough time for PE and to encourage pupils to continue to enjoy being active into adulthood."