Learning a Lesson from the Games; Double Top: Without Proper PE Teaching, Winners like Rebecca Adlington Won't Emerge

The Evening Standard (London, England), September 1, 2008 | Go to article overview

Learning a Lesson from the Games; Double Top: Without Proper PE Teaching, Winners like Rebecca Adlington Won't Emerge


Byline: SARAH RICHARDSON

WHILE swimmer and recent school leaver Rebecca Adlington wowed Beijing with her two Olympic golds, Great Britain's ability to maintain last month's Olympic success could be undermined by a lack of PE teacher training, according to one expert.

Margaret Talbot, chief executive of the Association for Physical Education, believes that the ability of primary teachers to teach the subject extensively is essential to giving pupils a proper foundation for later success in sport.

"Some primary teacher training providers are still only paying lip service to PE," she says. "About 40 per cent of newly qualified primary teachers have had six hours or less of training in PE, which is a national scandal when some are managing to incorporate far more than that. This isn't about castigating teachers it's not their fault. But not providing this training is affecting teachers' confidence, particularly regarding health and safety concerns, when they are teaching sport." According to the Training and Development Agency for Schools, it is up to individual training providers to design programmes that met the standard for qualified teacher status. But Professor Talbot believes that a vital part of the TDA's role is to hold them to account and ensure there is a minimum standard of around 30 hours.

"I appreciate there are other [core curriculum] demands on time, particularly when IT [Initial Training] is effectively packed into eight months. But good providers manage to do this by offering top-up training at weekends and in evenings if necessary as well as offering continuing professional development once teachers are in post."

While Britain has celebrated an impressive medal haul from the Beijing Olympics, these results appear to be in spite of, rather than because of, the contribution of state school sport. In fact, the sports in which the British team was most successful cycling, rowing and sailing are only the 17th, 31st and 28th most popular sports in state schools respectively.

This data echoes results in previous Olympics: in Sydney in 2000, more than 60 per cent of the British gold medallists were former independent pupils, even though the private sector educates only seven per cent of children.

However, Professor Talbot points out that the independent sector has boosted its sporting performance by giving scholarships to some of the best state school talent.

"Millfield has been doing it for years," she says. "And there's nothing wrong with that. Of course, it can be easier to train children at a boarding school when they're in an environment 24 hours a day. It's difficult to do, for example, cricket properly in a state school unless you have some very good relations with local clubs. …

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