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Become fit enough to run for the coach;Subject of the week;Sport and PE

Specialist sports colleges are helping schools with their PE. Kirk Bizley reports

Teenagers are not as fit as they used to be. By the time they arrive at secondary school, their basic physical skills are lower than those of their peers from the past.

Like many other things in education there is no one factor which has led to this. Rather it is a combination of many. Changes of lifestyle (the power of the Playstation, for example), national curriculum changes and a lack of basic fitness have all contributed.

But this inactivity affects children's ability to take part in team games. Even the most basic skills of running, throwing and jumping, which all require a basic fitness level as a starting point, are often poor or non-existent.

So what is to be done? We certainly cannot blame the teachers who are expected to cover a wide range of areas, but with minimal expertise.

Two specialist sports colleges, Biddick School and Sports College in Washington, Tyne and Wear, and Penryn College in south Cornwall, have tried to address the problems with a number of initiatives.

At Biddick, for instance, they have introduced a full-time specialist PE co-ordinator whose role is to work within all of the partner junior schools. The aim is not to provide their PE instruction, but work with the teachers to enable them to teach the subject more effectively.

Penryn has sent coaches into neighbouring schools, and will make an audit of each one to see what resources they've got.

Here, the main aim has been to give children a greater variety of sporting experiences. Feedback so far shows this has been extremely successful.

Not all primary schools are lucky enough to have a neighbour that is also a sports college. For those without one, I would suggest the following measures: * lack of basic skills can be remedied by giving children greater opportunity and encouragement to practise. It does not mean spending huge amounts of money.

* Get hold of specialist equipment such as balls in soft materials and sizes which are easier to catch, as well as reduced size racquets and hockey sticks.

* Contact the Youth Sports Trust, which visits with bags of equipment and provides training. (Tel: 01509 228293).

* Make sure the children have access to all equipment during playtimes and encourage them to use it.

* Target parents too. Make sure they help their children develop skills.

* Start extra-curricular clubs.

* Promote a whole-school policy of physical activity Kirk Bizley is chief examiner for physical education for the Southern Examining GroupAssociated Examining Board.

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