Football, rugby, cross-country, cricket (if you were unlucky enough), hockey, netball, athletics, dodge ball… Yeah, I remember all those.
Why do I remember them? Simple: PE lessons.
PE and sport is probably the overriding memory people have when they think of their school life. It broke the year group down socially. From day one, you were either the sporty guy… or you weren’t. Such an attitude from your first week of Year 7 is clearly full of implications for the rest of your school days. Schools really do drive it home…
- Schools don’t mind focussing on sport as an area for vast expenditure. One of the main reasons behind this is because it is one of the few ways a school can be measured against another without making the kids too worried about exam results. Progress on the sports pitch is almost certainly going to get more exposure than attainment in learning.
- Take my old school for example. When I was there, they received a sports and science double specialism. Naturally, there was additional funding for the school to help improve. It is interesting to note the £2m AstroTurf field and the gym that followed last year – that at an even greater cost.
Strangely though, the science facilities remain untouched and falling to pieces. It seems pretty clear where the school’s priorities lie! To this day nothing has been done at that school – a massive multimillion pound gym has been built under the guise of ‘well, the whole community can use it.’
The issue is that sports is not for everyone and previous (and the current) governments have drilled it into our heads that every kid is obese and everything has to change to save them. Unluckily for many, this meant that schools started to worry about their reputation more when it came to student’s well-being. Of course, sports got added in more and more and other subjects became marginalised.
For example, even though we had projects to complete and work to get ready, I remember that for Years 7-9 we were forced out of lessons on a Wednesday in November to take part in a bit of cross-country. The locals would turn up and watch and you got the impression that the school really did it to make themselves appear responsible. I never saw the point in wasting that afternoon each year so I always walked it! It was during this that you realise ‘hang on, shouldn’t I just be actually learning?’
Don’t get me wrong, people need a healthy lifestyle and that starts at school. What my concern is when suddenly it becomes highly competitive and people who really aren’t athletic end up running three miles for the school’s image.
Surely the extra-curricular sports in that case should have been available to those who wanted to and something else for those who really wanted to carry on with their education?
Don’t forget the one day each summer where everything would stop for Sports Day? Read: the day where all the athletic kids run and throw things and everyone else is forced to watch. Such a waste of time I think.
Maybe helping to kids to make decisions on their own lifestyle instead of forcing them into sports activities would make a better solution?
If nothing else, remember the pointless end-of-year assemblies at school, designed to reflect on achievement… That was two minutes of academic certificates and then an hour of how well the netball team was doing – made all the more predictable because the captain was the daughter of the netball coach.