Bring back 1940s-style PE!


Last updated at 13:11 22 April 2004

Old-style PE lessons from the 1940s should be brought back to tackle obesity among children, the chief inspector of schools said yesterday.

David Bell said pupils could well benefit from no-nonsense exercise and military-style drills.

And he suggested: "Maybe, just maybe, some features of school life in 1944 were better than they are today."

Mr Bell, head of Ofsted, said it is time to inject more of the "physical" into physical education.

"Drills have given way to dance, gymnastics, outdoor and adventurous activities and the study of health and fitness," he said.

"At the same time, modern living has seen the ascendancy of fast food, computer games and television, resulting in many young people living far less physically active and healthy lifestyles."

Couch-potato generation

Mr Bell, in a speech in London to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the 1944 Education Act, called on the Government and schools to do more to help the couch-potato generation.

He said at the Palace of Westminster: "Should schools, supported by government, practise what they preach in personal, social and health education, by ensuring rather than encouraging pupils to follow a healthy diet while they are in school; by preventing the unnecessary use of computers; by insisting that pupils go outside when the weather is fine, and, as some schools do already, by teaching young pupils games to play?"

The 1944 Act, brought in under Minister of Education 'Rab' Butler, gave local authorities the duty to contribute towards the "spiritual, moral, mental and physical development" of children.

Mr Bell said 1944 "morality" was synonymous with "behaving well" and "physical" development with exercise and drills.

He added: "So is this the time to recapture Butler's aspiration for the physical development of pupils and inject more of the 'physical' into physical education?"

Childhood obesity

Childhood obesity rates jumped 25 per cent between 1995 and 2002, say doctors. And a study last year by the Government-funded Sport England found that the proportion of pupils not taking part in any sport during school time rose from 15 to 18 per cent from 1994 to 2002.

Ministers want three-quarters of children to be receiving two hours a week of 'high-quality' PE by 2006.

But Mr Bell said after his speech that poor facilities are a problem.

"There's no doubt that if you don't have proper facilities it's harder," he added. "Too many schools still don't have the facilities they need."

He added that children in the 1940s were not affected by issues of safety or a lack of sports fields.

Many schools have been hit by fields being sold. Labour pledged to scrap this policy, but more than 200 have disappeared since 1998.

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