PE is much more than merely coaching;Letter

25th June 1999 at 01:00
I was mildly annoyed by the article by Tom McNabb (Another Voice, TES,June 4). He appeared to be arguing that physical education in school is taught by poorly-qualified generalists, who coach boring lessons to groups of uninterested students. He then concluded that this was a cause of poor participation in sport among the adult population.

As a physical education professional for some 15 years, I must contest some of his assumptions and generalisations.

First, he does not distinguish between coaching and teaching, and sees PE professionals as non-specialist coaches. I have certainly never seen myself as a coach. Teaching is a far more encompassing process involving the development of the whole child and not just their ability to perform certain sports.

Second, the assumption that PE teachers are generalists who lack the skill and knowledge to inspire young people to participate in sport is very naive. In my experience, PE teachers generally have a wide range of expertise and the ability to deliver high-quality lessons in a wide range of activities. Furthermore, the choice of activities taught in the curriculum is often governed by their particular specialisms.

Finally, Mr McNabb assumes that pupils are uninspired by their PE lessons at school and do not want to continue participating through their adult lives. While some pupils do not enjoy PE, in my experience the majority thoroughly enjoy the subject. Certainly, if the curriculum is well- organised and imaginative, pupils will be given the opportunity to participate in activities of their own choice and enjoy themselves as a consequence.

In reality, if there is a problem with young people continuing their sport after leaving school, it is more to do with a breakdown in communications between clubs and schools rather than the fault of the PE curriculum. This is an area that has been addressed by most heads of PE in recent years and is a feature of the Sports Mark Award. We must also remember that this is a two-way relationship and clubs have their own role to play in order to encourage young adults leaving school on to their membership lists.

Stuart McLaughlin Deputy headteacher Haling Manor high school Kendra Hall Road Croydon South London

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