Is PE the most important school subject of all?

Core physical education is schools' kryptonite against global pandemics, says PE teacher Iain MacCorquodale

Iain MacCorquodale

PE is schools' kryptonite against global pandemics like Covid, says PE teacher Iain MacCorquodale

Over the past year, our nation has been engulfed by the restrictions of this global pandemic, and it has affected us in ways that we couldn't have envisaged 12 months ago. Our subject, PE, has faced more restrictions than any other and we’ve had to adapt to keep children moving.

The intuition shown by all staff to adapt our normal day has been nothing short of remarkable. As time has gone on, we have developed a sense of togetherness and support for one another, and I'm very proud to be a PE teacher – but we are not done yet. 

Covid-19 has been a formidable opponent. Our pupils’ mental, emotional, social and physical health has been affected as their normal-day-to-day life has been completely turned on its head. They haven’t been allowed to experience physical education or physical activity in all its splendour for nearly a year now.

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The damaging impact that various lockdowns have had will require a period of reflection and continued hard work from us, as teachers of physical education, to get our pupils back on track when we return to school normality. We need to challenge ourselves to be at our very best every day to ensure that we reignite passion within our pupils to lead and maintain physically active and healthy lifestyles. Through no fault of their own, our pupils have suffered the adverse effects of lack of engagement in physical activities and sports.

Covid and schools: More attention must be given to PE

Core physical education, for me, is the most important subject taught in schools. With everything that has happened over the past year and, considering all the challenges the next generation faces, more attention must be given to our subject.

Core PE is the school’s own kryptonite against global pandemics. Our subject is vital for the future of our nation’s children and I believe it should be a higher priority for schools. We need to continue to be hugely motivated, relentlessly enthusiastic and inspiring role models to help our pupils become fitter, to enjoy physical activity and sport again through differentiated progressive lessons that challenge them mentally, emotionally and socially, as well as physically.

We don’t get long to do this. Two periods or hours a week is not enough. Once you take changing times, registrations, setting up of equipment, walking to the facility, teaching and learning, our pupils will be lucky to have 60 minutes a week of physical activity out of two 50-minute periods.

No other subject faces such challenges. It’s lucky we have amazing staff who can work under such restraints, but the next generation require more time within the subject for their future benefit. PE merits more than two periods a week or more than two hours a week, and I believe that together we have the power to make the necessary changes possible. 

This is not about taking away from other subjects, it is because what PE provides is a necessity for future generations. Our subject has the capacity to bring about lifelong healthy lifestyles. And a life filled with enriched experiences is the result of being physically active. 

We need to treat the return to school as an opportunity for us to show our worth, to re-engage the next generation and let them experience how amazing life can be when you are physically active and leading a healthy lifestyle. We need to teach how being active can help us all through not only this global pandemic but through the journey that is life.

Iain MacCorquodale is a PE teacher in Scotland. This is a version of an open letter originally published on social media

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