Letter: School exercise without games

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The Independent Online
Sir: The Prime Minister's expressed wish to promote organised competitive sport, as a compulsory part of the school curriculum, has been widely debated, including correspondence in your columns (Letters, 12 April). I am one among many who, while agreeing the need to encourage pupils to play school games and to provide the means to that end, is not in favour of compelling them all to participate in this particular form of physical recreation.

It is quite another matter, however, to require that all schoolchildren should take part in some form of physical recreation. All too little has been said about the value of outdoor recreational activities which are not necessarily competitive and are not confined to school premises: biking and camping, canoeing and other water-based activities, climbing and caving. These activities should be on offer to all pupils as alternatives, or in addition to organised games. They have the merit of making young people aware of the countryside, and encourage them to work together to confront the natural elements, rather than human opponents.

Education in the constructive and rewarding uses of leisure time would, indeed, be a more relevant component of the school curriculum than the playing of games alone, which is so much favoured by the Prime Minister.

It seems to me that too much value is attached to the incentive of winning, in the context of physical recreation, in a world already driven by the motivation of competition. By all means let us expose our youth to the experience of losing, as well as winning. But let us also teach them the truth that, for some, it is more rewarding and no less meritorious to travel than to arrive.

Yours sincerely,




15 April

The writer is President of the National Association for Outdoor Education.