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Headteacher of Hampstead private school says sport should engage the majority rather than burnish the few

PUBLISHED: 10:30 01 October 2016 | UPDATED: 10:55 03 October 2016

Ashley Uzochukwu playing basketball for Greig City Academy. Credit: Alen Mousley

Ashley Uzochukwu playing basketball for Greig City Academy. Credit: Alen Mousley

Alan Mousley

The headteacher of a private school believes that sport in school should be used to engage the majority rather than burnish the few amidst reports that not enough young people are doing enough exercise each week.

Despite the flurry of gold medals at this summer’s Rio 2016 Olympics and Paralympics which produced a packed roster of sporting role models, doubts remain over whether young children will be inspired to get active.

Results from 2014/205 show that more than a third of children aged between two and 15 were classed as either overweight and obese, with the British Heart Foundation fighting a yearly battle to encourage healthy lifestyles among the young.

But with the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation reporting that 76 per cent of teenage girls want to do more exercise, appetite does not appear to be the problem.

Jonathan Taylor, who is headteacher at North Bridge House, believes that all senior schools – be they in the state or independent sector – need to adopt a more inclusive approach with PE lessons.

“Most teenagers won’t learn to enjoy sport unless they get to play one they actually like,” he said. “Teenagers often hate sport because they have never been especially good at it.

“They never get picked for a team and they get tired of always being overlooked. They’re not engaged with sport because it doesn’t engage them.

“The problem is many teenagers hate sport. They aren’t going to skip off gladly to the gym or playing field simply because the latest research suggests it’s good for them or because their head teacher thinks it’s a brilliant idea.

“Schools and parents can proselytise endlessly about how good it is for them, but many teenagers will roll their eyes and do everything they can to avoid it.

“They turn off, zone out and find imaginative ways to skip PE.”

Mr Taylor’s senior school, which will open its doors to Year 7 pupils from September next year, makes sport compulsory but gives teenagers a variety of different activities in six-week blocks, including judo, volleyball, tennis, rock climbing, sailing and aerobics.

He says that as a result his teachers aren’t bombarded with dodgy sick notes or faced with sullen and very reluctant players.

“Everyone finds something to like in at least one of those activities – and they don’t get bored,” he said.

“Rock climbing and sailing are particularly popular.

“Students who love competitive sports have extra-curricular clubs for the usual football, basketball and athletics to choose from. Sport is good and students should play it.”

Alex Atherton, who is headteacher at Quintin Kynaston, also believes in the value of sport for everyone, with the Marlborough Hill school expanding its provision year on year.

He said: “The programme of sport at the school begins at 7.30am and many students are still engaged until hours after school, either on site or in fixtures around Westminster. We now run a series of teams on Saturdays too.

“It is so important that students enjoy their PE provision, and see the benefits that getting involved beyond their lessons has on their health, wellbeing and academic performance. Team sport teaches young people a lot about life which will only benefit them in the workplace.”

Greig City Academy is another school which believes in offering a range of activities, such as yoga, dodgeball, dance and handball, on top of their core team sports.

Daniel Bowmaker, who is head of PE at the Hornsey school, said: “Sport and physical fitness in general are essential elements of our healthy living policy and practice.

“We promote active lifestyles in and out of school and aim to make sure students’ experiences of physical activity are positive.

“We have basketball teams who regularly take gold in national championships and some of our alumni have played for England.

“However, our focus is on getting all students involved in sport – we stress the benefits to them in terms of reducing the chances of obesity and conditions such as diabetes – this through PE, science and personal development lessons.

“The aim is to develop young people’s knowledge, understanding, experience and attitudes in respect of health and participation in physical activity.

“Recognising and celebrating both achievement and participation through assemblies, ceremonies, and displays also helps improve participation.”

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