An article appeared on the BBC site this week, titled 'Not enough strenuous activity' in school PE. On first glance, this line immediately made me groan inside as memories of my own horrible PE lessons came flooding back. But after giving it some more thought, I think there may simply need to be more of a compromise at play here.
As almost any kid growing up with (diagnosed or undiagnosed - the latter, in my case) dyspraxia will tell you, PE lessons are hell on earth. You can't run, you have no co-ordination in team sports, you have no balance in gymnastics, you can't throw or catch well, and are generally not very good at handling your own body - or so it feels. But even so, there is no doubting that a much larger proportion of children are growing up overweight, and something needs to be done. It may be that this something is simply better food education, but that's a whole other topic.
So what's the deal with PE lessons? As commenters on the article rightly point out, a lot of time in PE lessons is wasted with getting changed, sorting equipment, explaining the sport - time that I used to relish, as it meant less time failing in front of my class. When I think back, there are certain PE lessons that stick out in my mind - one in particular is a class in Year 6 (10 years old) when we had to do the high jump. At each attempt, I would run up to the bar and quite literally fall over it. Luckily during this year I had a lovely teacher, who knowing my bookworm tendencies, let me get changed and read in the corner in the gym. Obviously in some ways this will have made it worse, as it only separated me further from the other kids, but in others it helped as the embarrassment of not having to do it was preferable over the embarrassment of trying.
I also remember a PE lesson where an outside game was rained off, and we did circuit training in the gym instead. Finally I found something that felt more fun to me - short bursts of varied activities, where no one was either watching me fail, or expecting me to help them win. I'm not saying I was very good at the activities, but the change was a wonderful one. We never did circuits again after that, and instead went back to the lessons I hated the most - like gymnastics.
I believe if PE lessons could have more of this type of variation - individual sports and similar, it may be found that children are getting more enjoyment out of it, and therefore will put more effort in. There will always be children who thrive on competitive sports (and that's great!), but these activities are much more accessible outside of school as well as during. A child who wants to become the next Messi would have no problem finding an after-school football club to join, while a child who is reclusive in sport at school would be much less likely to spend their free time in this way. Like some commenters on the BBC article, it's only once I've been out of school that I've started showing an interest in fitness. I'm now a Bodybalance convert and try to go to the gym twice a week, which is something I never would have dreamed of previously.
If PE lessons were able to cater for different abilities too, in a similar way to English and Maths, that could also help less sporty kids find their way and see what activities suit them. Exercise is something we need to do to look after ourselves, and so it doesn't make sense for it to come across as something almost exclusive, and off-putting for a lot of children.
So with this in mind, what inspires you to take part in sport/exercise? Are you a competitive person, or are you just trying to keep fit?
I'd be really interested to hear what forms of exercise other people with dyspraxia favour - maybe we can share ideas :) Do you know anyone with dyspraxia who has been inspired by the Olympics? If you do have a child or young sibling with dyspraxia and they show no interest in sport, don't give up on them.
PS - For my blog title, I had to choose something else that makes me groan. Duck duck goose is THE worst game for dyspraxic kids! ;)