Making sport more competitive? PE lessons already embarrass and alienate some students

Why not give students the choice of which activity they partake in?

Share
Related Topics

A recent report from Ofsted reveals that PE lessons aren’t meeting requirements, apparently not being “strenuous” enough.

The Department of Education have responded - in their typical fashion of attempting to make the current education system resemble their own schooldays as closely as possible - responded by vowing to make PE more competitive.

All of this was news to me, I’ll admit, given my own experience of PE was somewhat reminiscent of The Hunger Games, albeit with more running till blue in the face into howling, horizontal rain. For a chubby, unpopular, dyspraxic girl in the middle of the turmoil of puberty, PE was a cruel and unusual form of ritual humiliation. And I’m not the only one: as soon as I tweeted the Ofsted report, my replies were flooded with PE horror stories.

As Sophie Warnes identified, the way PE lessons are structured really aren’t for everyone. Physical activity is vitally important for health, but PE at school has put countless people off exercise for life. The way it’s done is wholly unsuitable for a lot of people: girls, people with disabilities, gay kids, to name but a few. It needs to change, and thanks to my own hideous experiences, I have a few solutions to the problem.

Firstly, ditch group showers. The last thing young people need as their bodies change is to be forced to be naked amid their peers. It’s such a minefield for bullying: maybe you’re too flat-chested, maybe you’re too big; the bullies will find some way of shaming you for the body you have. I don’t know who thought it would be a good idea to throw young people in the middle of puberty into a room naked together, but it opens up opportunities for abuse that will stay with you long after the bell has rung. And even if you’re not a target for bullying, it can’t be pleasant getting naked in a group while living under patriarchy, and all the body-shaming nonsense that comes with it.

Secondly, let people choose what they want to do. Even the most hardened PE-hater will have something they enjoy. For me, it was hockey. I wasn’t particularly good at it, but it was pleasing to have a stick in my hand and fantasise about extracting vengeance on those who verbally abused me on a daily basis. I also rather liked gymnastics: again, I wasn’t much good at it, but I was impressed by the things my body could do that I’d never thought possible. This compromise means that those who enjoy competition can still play competitive sports, while those who tend to get screamed at and ostracised for being useless at football don’t have to be subjected to that treatment any more.

And finally, it’s thoroughly necessary to actually teach young people how to do things in their PE lessons. There seems to be a prevailing assumption amongst PE teachers that people can just run, without any training in how to do it, and that, when passed a cricket bat some sort of sacred knowledge will flow through its handle, instilling the bearer with an understanding of the byzantine rules of the game. Being yelled at to do something you have no idea how to do is no use whatsoever in learning how to do it - and, possibly, learning that this is an enjoyable activity.

Of course, these simple suggestions would require a radical overhaul in how PE is taught, and I suspect, for political reasons, they would be unpopular. The current thinking from the policymakers is it never did them any harm, and what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. The current thinking is set up against making vulnerable people feel safer, and in favour of rampant competition - this is, after all, the rationale behind the new PE curriculum. The Department of Education may have spoken out against a “prizes-for-all culture”, but they’re neglecting what is possibly the most important prize to win: the health and wellbeing of future generations of young people.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Why it won’t be the i wot won it – our promise to you

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
A relative of dead Bangladeshi blogger Washiqur Rahman reacts after seeing his body at Dhaka Medical College in Dhaka on March 30,  

Atheists are being hacked to death in Bangladesh, and soon there will be none left

Rory Fenton
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor