More children enjoy sports lessons than ever before now that schools teach cheerleading, skateboarding and country dancing alongside traditional games, school inspectors have found.
Ofsted’s study of PE lessons in 99 primary and 84 secondary schools between 2005 and 2008 discovered that children have become more keen to do sport because of the wide range of activities schools offer.
Since 2000 when the compulsary teaching of competitive games to 14 – 16 year olds ceased, schools have gradually started to provide lessons in activities such as tai chi, mountain biking, golf and yoga. These have attracted pupils who disliked traditional team games, particularly “vulnerable” children, the inspectors said.
Children in primary and secondary schools now understand the importance of taking regular exercise and of eating a healthy diet. Most can talk knowledgeably about the effects of exercise on their bodies and why it is important to warm up before exercise.
However, children do not always put what they know into practice, the inspectors said in the recently published study.
Lessons in health and fitness are often marginalised in the curriculum. The inspectors said this was worrying, given widespread concerns over childhood obesity and “increasingly sedentary lifestyles”.
The government has put £978m into school sport since 2003 and Ofsted said the quality of sports teachers and PE lessons have improved as a result.
Most children are achieving high standards in sports lessons and teaching is good or satisfactory in most schools. However, examples of “outstanding” sport or PE teaching are rare.
The government wants all schools to offer five hours of sport by 2012. At present, 90% offer two hours. Schools show varied levels of preparation towards offering five hours of sport, the inspectors found.
Delyth Morgan, the children’s minister, said she was “especially pleased” competitive school sport was thriving because it gave children “the opportunity to unlock their potential and learn new skills, like leadership and teamwork”.