France heads the European league table in physical education, with more than twice as much time on school timetables as the UK. Austria and Switzerland offer at least two hours a week, while the UK languishes in mid-table with just over 100 minutes a week on average. Ireland comes bottom of the Exeter University survey of physical education in 25 countries carried out by Professor Neil Armstrong.
Most governments pay lip service to the principle of two hours a week curriculum time for the subject, but the reality in many countries, including the UK, is that PE time is under pressure. No European country offers a daily period of PE.
Japanese schools offer limited amounts of curriculum time, often devoted to callisthenics. In the United States, the high school system is built around success on the track or field alongside success in the classroom. In many schools the director of sport has a position to rival the principal. US schools have a structured PE year which will see coaches across the country concentrating on particular sports. This provides a basis for inter-school and state competition and is a development some would like to see in the UK.
Critics of the present system have suggested one afternoon a week could be designated as PE day for each key stage.