School Sport Needs to Be Exciting and Challenging; It's Easy to Say That Parents Should Take Full Responsibility for Their Child's Health, but What Role Can Schools Play in Supporting This? Ann Keane, Chief Inspector of Education and Training in Wales, Looks at the Way Schools Can Influence Children in Living Healthy Lifestyles

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AT a time when the Welsh rugby team are the Grand Slam champions, we have a football team performing well in the Premier League and another pushing for promotion in the Championship and we have hosted some events in what is counted as the most successful Olympic games ever, success in sport is a matter of pride and enthusiasm in every playground in Wales.

Children and young people of all ages can be heard arguing over who is the fastest man in the world - is it Mo Farah or Usain Bolt? Which is the best football team? And, will the Blues beat the Ospreys this year? As inspectors we evaluate how well schools are working to educate pupils and we also look at how well schools help our children and young people to improve their health, fitness and wellbeing.

We judge the quality of pupils' experiences and understanding in sports and physical education. Over the past six years, we have seen schools put more emphasis on this aspect of pupils' learning.

Children and young people tell us that most of them feel that they have enough opportunities to take part in regular exercise and that they are gaining a good understanding of the short and longer-term effects of exercise and healthy living on the body.

In the best schools, teachers have high expectations of what pupils can achieve and physical education lessons are planned to make sure that pupils of all abilities improve their knowledge and skills.

Pupils are challenged to get better and have lots of opportunities to develop their communication, leadership and problem-solving skills in physical education and to evaluate and improve their own work.

We also know that many initiatives introduced in recent years - to motivate and inspire pupils and to make them more aware of how important it is to live a healthy and active life - have succeeded.

For example, the 5 x 60 programme, which is run by Sport Wales, offers secondary school pupils opportunities to take part in a wide range of traditional team-based sports as well as new activities like Zumba, street dance and pilates.

They often do this by arranging a partnership with local clubs and this establishes links for pupils with fitness activities that they can continue with after leaving school so they can stay fit and active.

There have been many important wins although there are still things to improve.

Since 2007, there has been a steady decline in the number of young people choosing to study physical education at GCSE. We know that it is a more popular subject with boys than girls.

New initiatives such as the 5 x 60 programme are helping to close this gap by giving girls more opportunities to take part in more creative and adventurous activities.

But schools need to make sure that the activities they are offering represent a full and appropriate range.

The activities need to be fun and to fire pupils' imaginations as well as being suitably challenging for pupils of all abilities.

We know that some schools do not have enough equipment or up-to-date facilities to support high-quality physical education programmes.

This clearly restricts pupils' choice and their progress in these schools. …