I tuned into an interesting discussion on Radio 5 Live this week. Over the weekend, The Telegraph reported that some secondary schools report as much as a 38% decrease in PE participation around exam time. Today’s Radio 5 discussion: “PE - what did you love? What did you hate?”
Open the floodgates! Some people waxed poetic about their PE days. Others, years on from school, still have a horrid visceral reaction. Parents spoke about how participation in PE increased their children’s overall success, while others spoke of the distress PE caused.
In the midst of the discussion, a really interesting nugget popped up. Could we make PE less about how great one kicks a football and more about the benefits of physical activity?
For so many reasons this makes sense. There’s a difference between sporty and active. We’re not all sports stars. Some of us aren’t sporty at all. And that’s okay!
The benefits of physical activity are particularly relevant for children who are approaching their exams. Last year during the exam period, the NSPCC’s Childline saw an 11% increase in calls from children feeling overwhelmed, with the majority of calls from children between 12-15. At the same time, Great Ormond Street Hospital cites increased concentration and improved academic marks as the top benefit in exercise for children around exam time.
Can we reshape the discussion around PE? Can we make it more about life skills and less about winning and losing? We focus on this heavily at Mini Mermaids, simply because we’ve seen and experienced the benefits of it. Of note, most of the girls that we encounter through our programmes, don’t come from a “sporty” background. The “whole child” approach that we use enables girls to look at physical activity as something that anyone can do and has such a positive effect on their inner dialogue with themselves.
Our girls combine physical activity, games and mindfulness, which in turn positively impacts their lifelong emotional, mental and physical well-being. Their self-esteem and confidence increases and this carries over to all aspects of their lives. This unique way of delivering physical activity, keeps the girls coming back to our programmes year after year.
At a time when children, especially girls, turn away from PE, let’s change the dialogue. With so many proven benefits, we need to increase participation and improve the connection between physical activity and academic studies.