Let’s support our PE teachers in their work to promote fun and well-being

The unsung heroes of Sheffield secondary schools are not the managers who strut around in posh suits or the number-crunchers turning children into streams of data.

Wednesday, 14th August 2019, 3:13 pm
Updated Thursday, 12th September 2019, 9:04 pm
Children get a boost from physical and mental health from having a more active role in sport.

To find the saints in our schools, we perhaps surprisingly need to look for the people casually dressed in hoodies, shorts and trainers – the PE teachers that are legendary on so many levels.

My eldest child started secondary school this week having taken part in many different sporting clubs at junior school and I was interested in seeing how the transition would develop – would they grasp the new openings with both hands? It only took a couple of days for the explosion of opportunities to hit home – we’re already booked in for two extra-curricular clubs.

The weeks are getting busier, if that were possible, and the domestic taxi service is thriving.

Parents often take this for granted, but the level of extra opportunities that are led by the PE department generally outstrips other parts of the school at an alarming rate and should be celebrated regularly. When the bell goes at the end of school, things are just warming up in the PE block as there’ll be clubs taking place at least four days of the week.

Other areas of the school, of course, put on lunchtime and after-school activities and we should not forget the dedication of all teachers, but the above-and-beyond dedication given by many PE teachers is often on a different scale. As well as the commitment to after-school clubs, the Saturday morning sporting games see many teachers putting in a six-day week through much of the year to develop the confidence, health, ability and enjoyment of their pupils.

Seeing a school offer such a wealth of sporting opportunities is a joy as a member of staff, and something I’m really appreciative of as a parent.

We should be proud of the city’s PE teachers for many reasons, but the number one debt of gratitude we owe them is for their part in trying to reduce the obesity crisis we face. It’s a battle I’m not convinced we’re going to win without a lot more investment in developing ideas and educating parents, but developing a love of exercise has certainly been a game-changer for many kids.

A third of children are overweight or obese by the time they leave junior school, and the sad truth is that it’s too late for many – they will be set on a course to be overweight and suffer related health problems for the rest of their life. Even more worrying is the statistic that two thirds of all parents offered help to improve their child’s health will refuse what’s on offer and do nothing. But as the stats inform us, there is so much more to be done – and that can also include senior managers in school taking a more active role in getting kids active. Of a particular concern are the children from disadvantaged backgrounds who would receive massive boosts to their physical and mental health from having a more active role in sport.

There are boundaries stopping these kids taking part in many cases, from not having the access to transport so they can attend clubs to not having the cash to pay for increasingly expensive equipment. Each of these children pull in thousands of pounds a year in Pupil Premium payments that are supposed to be spent developing their education.

Too often these payments go into more ‘general’ school funds to pay for something that benefits many children, and there is not enough targeting of Pupil Premium to increase the life on a case by case basis. If you know your child generates a Pupil Premium Payment, then ask what it’s spent on and see if anything can be done to get them more involved in sporting clubs.

Improving the health of our children is ingrained in the heart of PE teachers and something for which we should all be hugely thankful. Let’s support them in their work to promote fun and well-being and encourage schools to do even more. If your child takes part in a sports club at school, plays in the school team or simply enjoys PE, drop an email in showing your appreciation.