Canoeing classes floated at Yeovil

13th June 2008 at 01:00
Students are being offered the chance to try watersports and exercise classes in a government drive to encourage young people to be more active

Students are being offered the chance to try watersports and exercise classes in a government drive to encourage young people to be more active. Ideally they would be doing at least three hours of physical activities a week.

Although sport remains optional in further education, new co-ordinators are already researching how much physical exercise students carry out. They want teenagers to maintain exercise levels when they make the transition from school.

Sport co-ordinators are due to be recruited into every college by September, but the first tranche has already begun work in about 30 institutions.

One of their first tasks is to establish how much activity the 16 to 19- year-olds already take part in.

Former judo coach Kathryn Purnell, who took up the sports co-ordinator role at Yeovil College in Somerset, said: "When they arrive here, young people obviously have to choose their priorities. But just because they are on a non-physical course doesn't mean they can't also access sports.

"Some people are sporty in secondary school, but when they leave it all stops. Unless you can identify early on what they are interested in, there's a chance you might lose them."

Ms Purnell added: "The sport in our afternoon enrichment programme isn't compulsory, so some students don't bother. But it's our job to let them know what's available so they don't miss out."

The co-ordinators aim to widen the opportunities in colleges for competitive sports, and encourage teenagers to take part in them.

The Government wants pupils to take part in five hours of sport or other exercise every week. But for the over-16s the target is only three hours, as they no longer have compulsory PE lessons.

Ms Purnell said part of her job was to ensure there were opportunities to tempt all teenagers.

"One of the big issues that has come up in our survey so far is that students say the timetable doesn't allow for sport," she said.

"We were quite surprised, because during the time for enrichment activities on Wednesday afternoons, there are no normal classes. But maybe they are committed to other activities."

Ms Purnell said Yeovil had to introduce more variety to appeal to more students, such as canoeing - something which some survey respondents said they would like to take up.

The college is also offering pilates classes, hip-hop dancing, and an electronic dance game where students have to keep up with movements dictated by a computer,

The co-ordinators will also be expected to promote competitive sport to those who enjoy it, which would boost inter-college competitions.

Principals have said they hope the co-ordinators will help to make sport in England as important to college life as it is in US high schools.

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