Chris Whitworth, Head of Games and PE at Derby Grammar School (DGS), discusses the importance of sport and physical activity in schools.
On 15 May The Telegraph reported that, according to new research commissioned by the Youth Sports Trust, a decisive majority of the general public want more physical activity in schools and would support enhancing physical education to core subject status.
Almost two thirds of respondents “strongly or tended” to agree that PE should be a core subject in the national curriculum, with 80 per cent agreeing that there should be more opportunities for young people of all ages to be physically active at school. The Government’s current two-hour per week recommendation is only a curriculum guideline and not actually delivered in a significant number of schools.
How is sport incorporated into the curriculum at Derby Grammar School?
Sport is not only good for the body, it is also good for the mind, and so it plays a massive part in the lives of our young men and women at Derby Grammar School.
In the Junior School our boys spend up to four and a half hours a week undertaking physical activity. This includes games and PE lessons, as well as weekly swimming lessons.
Our older boys in Senior School (Years 7 to 11) and girls and boys in the Sixth Form enjoy the benefits of being active and out in the fresh air. Boys at KS3 have both games and PE lessons, which equates to nearly three and a half hours of physical activity. Unlike many schools, we have retained the traditional Wednesday afternoon sixth form games session in our curriculum. And, of course, our pupils regularly play competitive fixtures against other schools, both in the week and on a Saturday.
What is the difference between ‘games’ and ‘PE’?
This is a question we are often asked. Games activities develop both individual and team skills, as well as the really important characteristics of teamwork and comradeship, which are so important in preparing young people for the world of work. At DGS our games activities are rugby, hockey and cricket.
When taking part in games we see pupils find out a lot about themselves in a new and novel environment. The opportunity to learn new skills provides stretch and challenge, at the same time as having fun and improving health. A sense of belonging, a pride in representing the School and playing alongside their mates gives a real sense of community.
Physical education (PE) adds breadth to the curriculum and we focus on health-related fitness, racquet sports, basketball and athletics in the Senior School. Understanding how the body reacts to exercise and the subsequent health benefits is all part of this extensive programme at DGS which aims to establish a lifelong love of sport and physical activity.
The PE curriculum followed in the Junior School develops the ABC fundamentals of agility, balance and co-ordination; the building blocks of athletic movement. Ball skills, athletics, gymnastics and health related exercise form the basis of setting the solid foundations needed for future development.
Healthy mind, healthy body
With the mental health and wellbeing of our young people so important, physical exercise provides the opportunity to move away from the screen and blow off a little steam. It’s not only through the curriculum that schools can encourage pupils to do this. Breaktimes, after-school clubs and school competitions are all opportunities to further promote physical activity.
At Derby Grammar School we follow the mantra of healthy body, healthy mind. Visitors could be misled by the number of football goals we have on the grounds. In a boys’ school, as you may expect, football is certainly the biggest sporting activity we do, despite it not being one of our ‘school sports’. But it is in an informal setting, played each and every break and lunchtime by every year group. We encourage our boys to do this and they have long breaks which give them the time to do it.
Likewise, a good proportion of our House competitions are sports-based. Hockey, cricket, rugby, football and rowing are just some of these, as well as cross-country and tug of war. All of these promote camaraderie, teamwork and peer support as well as being a huge amount of fun!
Promoting a lifelong love of sport
There is a large body of evidence that suggests keeping active during the stressful times associated with examinations is beneficial in terms of the overall grades achieved.
Embedding some form of physical exercise into the normal school week bodes well for the future. As schoolchildren grow up and begin their careers, sport should continue to be part of the normal working week. It is vital to the health and wellbeing of the next generation, and that is why, at Derby Grammar School, we see it as a vital part of our school curriculum.