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Competitive sports ‘out of line’ for many school children

Too much focus on traditional competitive team sports for school pupils could alienate some children rather than tackle their sedentary lifestyles, a new report suggests.

Produced by the Youth Foundation, the report warns of the consequences of Government’s intended policy for PE lessons. The new School Games initiative would require all pupils to take part in competitive team sports, in contrast to individual alternatives such as dance.

The report claims that children’s sedentary lifestyles will cause huge health problems, and could lead to young people dying five years earlier than their parents.

It reads: “The emphasis on traditional, competitive team-based sports is out of line with the way many young people want to participate. The overriding emphasis on competitive sports is at odds with the motivations and drivers of many of the young people who are currently inactive.”

Will Norman, co-author of the report and the think tank’s director of research, said: “Kids want to do much more informal sports like street running, parkour and Zumba-type activities that are very flexible, can be done wearing different types of clothing or while listening to music and can be done individually.

“Competitive sports will work for some people. But if we want to get the most inactive active, we need to change our thinking. We need a philosophy that's driven by the people we are trying to target and not provide things that the most inactive don't want to do.”

But a government spokesperson said: “We want the Olympics and Paralympics to inspire people, whatever their ability, to get involved in sport. We want more young people to take part in competitive sport, not only so they lead healthy and active lifestyles but also so they develop new skills and learn how to work as a team. That is why we are putting competitive sport at the heart of the new primary school curriculum and extending school games.”

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