A Brighton university lecturer said that the Prime Minister’s Olympic-inspired plan to boost competitive sport in primary schools was “out of touch”.
David Cameron wants every child at primary school to take part in competitive team sports in the hope of repeating Britain’s success at the London Games.
But Gary Stidder, principal lecturer in physical education at Brighton University’s School of Sport and Service Management, said that the policy would “exclude many young people who have little or no interest in competitive team sports”.
Dr Stidder is the co-founder of the award-winning Football4Peace project which brings Arab and Jewish children together in Israel.
He was reacting to Mr Cameron’s announcement that all primary school children would have to play competitive sports as a way of harnessing the national team’s success and inspiring the next generation.
Dr Stidder said that PE teachers were currently introducing less competitive activities such as trampolining, mountain biking, orienteering, yoga and karate. The aim was to engage more young people in physical activity.
He said: “It is not the role of PE teachers to produce the next Olympic gold medallists.
“Do we blame our drama teachers in schools if we fail to win Oscars? No we don’t.
“There is misconception that PE is synonymous with sport and that PE teachers just coach sport, a situation that does not exist in the USA or China who were the top two Olympic medal-winning countries.
“PE teachers in this country are there to provide the foundations for physical literacy and to educate all young people on the importance of healthy active lifestyles, a view shared by Peter Keen, special adviser at UK Sport.”
Dr Stidder said that the government believed that sport was the right medicine to prevent low self-esteem among young people.
But, he said: “The link is tenuous and there are better ways, other than increasing competitive team sports, which can be used to promote self-confidence.
“Sport and carefully managed competition can be a valuable educational experience for young people but it should not be used at the expense of their overall holistic development.
“Physical education in schools is an entitlement rather than a privilege for all young people and not just for a selected few.
“Physical education in schools should be socially inclusive and based upon fairness and social justice.”
Dr Stidder and his colleague Sid Hayes, also a principal lecturer in physical education the university’s School of Sport and Service Management, have co-edited a book called Equity and Inclusion in Physical Education and Sport.
It was published this month by Routledge and emphasised a child-centred approach to the teaching and learning of physical education in schools.
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