More than a quarter of primary teachers do not feel qualified to teach PE and many more would welcome additional training in the subject, according to a survey released today.
The research, by the University of Bedfordshire, found that although 88 per cent of primary teachers recognise that PE is as important as the other topics they teach, many lack confidence when it comes to delivering lessons in the subject.
Of the 400 primary teachers who were surveyed, 28 per cent said that they did not feel adequately qualified to teach PE and 53 per cent said they would welcome more professional development opportunities in the subject.
The study also revealed that more than one in three children leaves primary school with a dislike of physical activity, which could have lifelong implications.
Although teachers acknowledge the value of physical activity, the survey found that 42 per cent of them believe that their students do not enjoy PE lessons and are leaving primary school without the skills they need to take part in ongoing physical activity.
Researchers have warned that inactivity during the first 10 years of childhood has a lasting impact on whether young people go on to develop active habits for life.
Professor Margaret Whitehead, visiting professor at the University of Bedfordshire and former PE teacher, said that teachers must be “equipped with the knowledge and tools they need to deliver quality PE”.
“PE lessons help to shape a child’s first experiences of physical activities,” she added. “It is crucial that these first experiences are positive, rewarding and enjoyable. We need to enable teachers to nurture a lifelong love of physical activity.”
The research adds to concerns about the physical fitness of young people that were raised by another recent study published by the Youth Sport Trust, which found that nearly a quarter of young people believe that playing a computer game constitutes a form of exercise.
Today, a coalition of sporting partners including Youth Sport Trust, Women in Sport and Virgin Active are launching a year-long CPD programme to support teachers who struggle to teach PE.
The coalition, named Active Inspiration, was launched in 2014 with the aim of getting 500,000 young people across the UK to take part in more physical activity over the next five years.
The government has already committed £450 million over three academic years (between 2013 and 2016) to help primary schools improve the quality of the sporting activities they offer in the form of the PE and sport premium.