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Schools taking physical out of PE, warns Ofsted

Education watchdog says sessions fail to build up strength or stamina of children

PE lessons in more than a quarter of Britain’s schools involve so little physical activity they fail to improve pupils’ fitness at all, a highly critical report has found.

Ofsted, the education standards watchdog, accused teachers of taking the “physical” out of physical education by talking too much in lessons and not involving children in enough strenuous activity to build up their stamina or strength.

Only a minority of schools play high class competitive sport, its report revealed.

The findings should have been published six months ago – at the height of Britain’s Olympic fever – but was delayed by redundancies at the inspectorate. Labour immediately claimed that the legacy of London 2012 was being betrayed.

The report goes on to reveal that few schools have drawn up targeted programmes for overweight or obese pupils and are thus failing to fight a rising problem among younger generations. One in five primary schools have also failed to ensure all pupils can swim by the age of 11.

Last night, the chief schools inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, ordered a follow-up report comparing the quality of competitive sport in the state and independent sectors. He also urged the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, to draw up a new strategy for delivering school sport to ensure Britain builds on the legacy of the Olympics.

The report said there was more good or outstanding PE work in schools than at the time of a previous Ofsted survey in 2008 – and that most schools now provide at least two hours of PE each week for pupils between the ages of five and 14, the benchmark set by the last Government.

The report, based on 120 visits to primary schools and 110 visits to secondary schools over the past four years, found the delivery of PE was better in secondaries. Achievement was good or outstanding in two-thirds of primaries and three-quarters of secondaries.

In primaries, the report added that “in a third of schools visited, more able pupils did not progress beyond basic techniques in ball games, gymnastics and dance due to teachers’ low expectations and limited subject knowledge”.

“For example teachers knew how to introduce ball games such as football and netball but they lacked a thorough understanding of how to consolidate basic sending and receiving skills, keep possession of the ball in competitive drills or use tactics to outwit opponents and score,” it said.

“In weaker lessons, pupils were not challenged to warm up vigorously or build stamina or strength by participating in sustained periods of physical activity.” It concluded: “A commitment from the Government to invest in a new strategy for PE and school sport if this legacy [of the Olympic Games] is to be maintained.”