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Fears for future health of nation’s young people

The study by Dr Jon Spence, Head of Physical Education at University of Roehampton, of more than 500 teachers across the country, has confirmed fears that the quality of PE training for primary school teachers is woefully inadequate.

Posted: 30 May 2012

image for news story Fears for future health of nation’s young people
The study by Dr Jon Spence, Head of Physical Education at University of Roehampton, of more than 500 teachers across the country, has confirmed fears that the quality of PE training for primary school teachers is woefully inadequate.

A leading education academic has today voiced serious concerns that Britain is missing the opportunity to develop the nation’s young people through sport and the chance to create a real lasting legacy following the Olympic and Paralympic Games, unless urgent action is taken.

Dr Jeanne Keay, Head of International Teacher Excellence, at the Higher Education Academy, has been working with University of Roehampton, who has undertaken independent research for Bupa Start to Move, an innovative approach to teaching primary physical education, which has been developed in partnership with the Youth Sport Trust.

The study by Dr Jon Spence, Head of Physical Education at University of Roehampton, of more than 500 teachers across the country, has confirmed fears that the quality of PE training for primary school teachers is woefully inadequate with almost half (47%) receiving ten hours or less of physical education training before qualifying and even more (55%), stating they have received very little to no support in teaching physical education at all over the last three years.

Lack of confidence in delivering the subject was highlighted as a major barrier with over a third (38%) rating physical education as one of the subjects they feel least confident and competent to teach; some even admitting to bringing in coaches to teach the lessons in their place.

“The quality of training for teachers in primary schools is not even close to where it needs to be if we’re to ensure our children learn and develop well and so enjoy physical activity” said Dr Keay.

“We have a fantastic opportunity in 2012, when sport will be at the very top of so many agendas, to capture the imagination of young children and engage them in sport. But primary school teachers need greater support and training in physical education to ensure they can engage and develop young people. If they’re not given this it will not only be a lost opportunity, but could lead to many more children disengaging with physical activity,” said Dr Spence.

“We’ve seen that some young people are incapable of even the most basic of movement skills, like throwing or catching a ball and walking in a straight line; this is a huge concern. As a nation we all want our children to live healthy, active lives and that is why it is so important to invest the time and resource into physical education in primary schools. Bupa is convinced that by engaging children while they’re learning about the fundamentals of movement and activity, we can inspire the next generation of fit healthy adults.”

Start to Move is a new approach to teaching PE to four to seven year olds, supported by Bupa and delivered by the Youth Sport Trust. It aims to help teachers gain a greater understanding and improve their confidence in key elements of teaching PE at primary level.

The programme equips teachers with the knowledge and confidence to teach the fundamental skills of movement, locomotion, stability and object control, rather than focusing on particular sports. Teachers receive free training, support and peer mentoring, ensuring that children learn the essentials at a crucial stage, paving the way for a lifetime’s participation in physical activity.

The programme is being piloted in schools in 2011/12 with teachers from 3,000 schools trained by the end of the 2012 academic year. The ambition is for Start to Move to be available to all primary schools over the next three years, reaching 17,000 schools, 34,000 teachers and 1.2 million children.

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