According to Baroness Sue Campbell, former head of UK sport, Britain is suffering from a “crisis of inactivity” following a rise in weight problems in children over the last decade that has driven up obesity levels, and damaging children’s performances at school.
Lady Campbell, chairman of the charity Youth Sport Trust, said the lack of exercise is also affecting children’s “ability to achieve in all areas of school life”, saying that active students perform better and have higher self-esteem.
The Government is investing £150 million in both 2013/14 and 2014/15 to raise standards of physical education in primary schools, with heads expected to spend the money on specialist games teachers, running sport competitions and improving facilities.
After a publication reported that a third of school age children in England are overweight, and 14-20 percent are obese, Lady Campbell said that some schools are not understanding the benefits of PE and that students under 11 may be missing out on high quality lessons. She went on to say that across the globe, sedentary lifestyles are putting pressures inside and outside of the school and that young people are not encouraged to lead active and healthy lives.
“The costs of physical inactivity are plain for all to see – childhood obesity levels continue to dominate the headlines, and we know that being inactive increases the risk of developing a host of other chronic conditions. However, being inactive not only adversely affects children’s physical health; it can also undermine their mental and emotional wellbeing, and limit their ability to achieve in all areas of school life.”
She said that a child who is active and healthy is more likely to perform better in all subjects, and they also will be more confident and “have greater employability skills, and are far more likely to have higher levels of self esteem.”
Graeme Paton, Education Editor at the Telegraph, said that a report from Ofsted found that a third of primary schools did not provide PE for their students and that children “were not given proper warm ups, able athletes ignored and a failure to focus on strenuous exercise.”
Around £300m has been made available by ministers over two years to help raise primary school standards. This comes after the national curriculum was designed emphasizing the importance of competitive sports. Campbell says that some schools understand how to use PE but that others are missing the opportunity by not addressing “major issues facing young people”.
“The Government investment in primary PE and sport announced last year can make a significant difference in schools if spent wisely,” she said. “I firmly believe that head teachers should focus this money on up skilling their teaching workforce to ensure sustainable improvements in PE can be made.”
Children’s minister Edward Timpson says it is important to create a love of sports in children at an early age and that is why the government is giving more money to improve sports and PE.