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SCHOOLS REARING COUCH POTATOES

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Children as young as five are becoming couach potatoes who lack even the most basic sporting skills - catching, thr...
Children as young as five are becoming couach potatoes who lack even the most basic sporting skills - catching, throwing and running - because physical education is disappearing from school timetables, reported The Observer (p6).

The biggest study into children's sporting habits will increase concern that TV, computer games and high cholesterol foods are making them less fit than ever. American-style 'fat camps' have already sprung up to combat the growing number of youngsters officially

classified as obese. The report has sparked warnings that rising inactivitiy by today's schoolchildren means they will be more prone to serious illness later in life and that Britain will soon be struggling to produce world class sportsmen and women.

Ministers will be embarrassed by the survey, which details how PE is being squeezed out of the national curriculum by their emphasis on reading, writing and arithmetic. Critics claim it makes a mockery of the government's commitment to build 'a sporting nation' and are

demanding urgent action to re-establish PE's key role in the school week.

Sport England, formerly the English Sports Council, questioned more than 3,300 children aged five to 16 and scores of teachers about sport, and compared it with results to its survey in 1994.

Sport England chairman Trevor Brooking, former England footballer, says the report shows that skill levels in key sports among younger children are worsening. 'The fundamental problem is that children are not being taught the basic techniques of how to hold a bat or

racquet or how to kick a ball. Kids leaving primary school at 11 now are, technically, the worst generation I have ever seen. At one Midlands school I visited recently, dinner ladies were supervising PE because there was such a shortage of teachers trained in PE'.

Mr Brooking wants the government to ensure that all pupils automatically receive two hours of PE at school. That aim is supported by bodies such as the Lawn Tennis Association, Football Association, Rugby Football Union and Amateur Swimming Association.

However, ministers regard two hours as an aspiration rather than a requirement and, crucially, they want that to include sport done outside school lessons.

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