TRAINEE PE teachers are "fattist" and biased against overweight pupils, a study shows. They rated the children lower for self-confidence, body condition and lifestyle than those of average weight.
Derek Peters, of Worcester university's school of sports science, interviewed about 170 student teachers on PE courses. He asked how much they agreed with statements such as: "Fat kids don't have much to be proud of physically" and "Fat kids would rather watch TV than play." They scored overweight children significantly lower than expected on all criteria.
Dr Peters said this raised concerns that new teachers would go on to exclude overweight children in class.
He said: "Do they see fatness as a disability, an excuse not to do PE, or even as something which slows down the other children?
"Physical education ought to be laying down the foundations of an active lifestyle for all children, regardless of weight. If we don't address this now, it doesn't bode well for the obesity epidemic."
Margaret Talbot, the chief executive of the Association for Physical Education, said that by interviewing students, researchers had missed the point. "In sports training the focus is very much on the body and physical activity, so it's not surprising if they're less tolerant than they will be in four years time," said Professor Talbot.
"Actually, fat and active pupils are healthier than inactive stick insects," she said. "We need to combat myths about body weight."