Leading article: We need to get fit for Olympics

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The Independent Online

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. And that is why this week's report by Ofsted, the education standards watchdog, on the state of physical education in our schools contains some depressing findings. For instance, too many schools - both primary and secondary - are scrapping time for PE in order to enable pupils to prepare for national-curriculum tests and secondary school examinations.

Physical education is also considered to be the easiest option for the chop when pupils are preparing for school events and drama productions. One of the reasons is that the assembly hall used for PE lessons in many schools is needed for such events, not least for public examinations. However, we cannot help but feel that it would be better for the pupils concerned if they were fit in both mind and body as they prepare to take such crucial examinations.

Similarly, now that London has been awarded the 2012 Olympics, it is depressing that our schools are not doing more to harness the talent of the talented games players and PE enthusiasts in their midst. According to the report, many of the lessons observed failed to challenge the youngsters in this category.

Moreover, the systems and criteria used by schools to identify their brightest sporting talent were poorer than had been the case when inspectors looked at the subject a few years ago. That needs to be addressed - and fast - if we are to nurture the talent that will succeed in gaining Olympic medals for Great Britain in the 2012 games.

It would be wrong, however, not to welcome the good things that were identified by inspectors. For instance, they note that there is more much competitive sport taking place in both primary and secondary schools - and it is this that is most likely to improve the performance of pupils. Also, most schools are making major strides in devoting more time to physical education, and many have already fulfilled the Government's pledge to allow pupils to take part in PE activities outside the national curriculum for two hours a week.

Overall, then, the Ofsted report seems to be saying of schools that they are "trying hard, but must do better" - a message that the Government should heed by putting more targeted resources into the subject than it is doing at present.