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No winners in PE Order

Diane Spencer finds many keen to blow the final whistle on the team games revival. The new national curriculum Orders for physical education will have adverse effects on both sexes: the emphasis on games at key stage 4 will alienate more girls while the emasculation of the dance curriculum will "impoverish" boys, according to researchers at Loughborough University.

The results of a pilot survey of around 1,600 pupils in eight schools found that 70 per cent of girls did not enjoy competition, but preferred individual activities. Generally, they felt they were not as competent as boys at PE. Younger pupils wanted more games and older pupils, less.

Jo Harris, a PE lecturer at Loughborough with a special interest in health-related exercise, said the study had shown that girls had more limited sports opportunities than boys, both at school and in the community.

"I am disappointed with the national curriculum, as the equal opportunities side has not been pushed enough. The requirement for a game at key stage 4 is completely unnecessary and will disadvantage girls."

Dawn Penney, a research fellow, agreed. The narrow curriculum at KS4 would not encourage girls to take part, she said. John Evans, professor of PE, thought that it had been "shaped by male politicians who thought that cold showers and cricket were the foundation for morality and fitness". Games, he added, are a very important part, but just one part, of the curriculum: "There's a lot more to PE."

He was "saddened" by the slimming down of dance and outdoor activities at KS3 as he thought this would impoverish boys' aesthetic appreciation and development of their sensitivity to other people.

Maggie Semple, a former dance teacher and member of the original curriculum working group, director of education and training at the Arts Council, thought the revised Orders emphasised games at the expense of other activities. "The original group argued that dance was equally important, although we were aware of the games lobby. It now seems we have a previous agenda re-asserting itself in the guise of slimming down the curriculum and helping teachers."

Jennifer Hargreaves, professor of the sociology of sport at the Roehampton Institute, London, and author of Sporting Females, (Routledge) was also concerned that the group's document which addressed equal opportunities seemed to have been "totally ignored". Although she was not completely "anti-competition", she added, she thought the revised Orders were a "retrograde step based on spurious 19th-century values".

* Sports Minister Iain Sproat, will be speaking on "Sport in the 21st century" at the Central Council of Physical Recreation national conference in Market Bosworth, Warwickshire, next Wednesday with Rodney Walker, new chairman of the Sports Council.

Delegates will be discussing women in sport, "Can School Sport Thrive?", drug abuse and what the National Lottery will mean for sport.

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