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PE must improve - Farah teacher

Mo Farah's former PE teacher has said standards of school sport and physical education need to improve.

Alan Watkinson spotted the talents of the future double Olympic champion when Farah was still a youngster and helped mentor him as a schoolboy.

In a new report by the Smith Institute think-tank, called the Future of School and Community Sport, Mr Watkinson says: "While we bask in the collective glory of a hugely successful Olympic and Paralympic Games, there remains considerable work to do.

"Physical education and school sport lacks rigorous structure and systems; the workforce, particularly at primary school level, is undertrained; specialist teachers at secondary level are forced to compromise or prioritise; relationships between community sport and schools remain largely underdeveloped; and the lack of a long-term, cross-party government commitment provides an uncertain backdrop to sustainable change."

He does not believe that accountability and responsibility should rest solely with head teachers. The report, which also includes the thoughts of Youth Sport Trust chairman Baroness Campbell, claims the success of school and community sport is key to changing attitudes of younger people towards sport and physical activity.

Mr Watkinson says there has been considerable investment in PE over the last decade and that Ofsted school inspectors have reported that the increased chances for youngsters to become involved in competitive school sport along with improved leadership and volunteering programmes and pathways "are nothing short of a profound and resounding triumph".

He adds it would be "churlish and wrong to decry" the recent announcement that £150 million a year would be invested in primary school physical education and school sport. In difficult economic times it shows recognition of the importance of addressing the "deep-rooted challenges" faced in primary schools while also raising the profile and importance of the development of physical literacy.

Mr Watkinson knew he was dealing with more than an average schoolboy runner in 1996 when he saw Farah, a gawky teenager with little English who had recently arrived in west London from Somalia. "Experiencing his success has made me realise that few problems are insurmountable, and this is a philosophy that I have found exceptionally helpful in meeting the challenges we face in physical education and school sport today," he says.

"In the brief window of time we have to make the most of the Olympic buzz, we need to commit the investment to people and partnerships, we need to create structures that can make a real difference, and we need a long-term strategy that provides unwavering dedication from all to create an innovative, world-leading primary physical education offer. Each topic is huge in isolation, but I am sure that each and every one of these three issues resonates with those who understand the sporting industry in Britain."

A Department for Education spokesman said: "This Government is taking decisive action to ensure we harness the Olympic spirit and give every child the opportunities they need to be fit and healthy. We are providing £300 million directly to primary schools to spend on PE over the next two years. Ofsted will hold schools to account for how well they spend the money, and we have invested a further £750,000 to create a cadre of specialist primary PE teachers, with the first joining schools this month."


From Belfast Telegraph