What do you remember about PE in school? I think I must have blocked out much of it, but I have vague recollections of attempting to climb thick, coiled ropes in the gym and going on cross-country runs in little more than a vest and underwear. This was in secondary school, where it was all too easy to develop a lifelong loathing of organised physical activities – and sports all too often took place on rain-lashed pitches, wearing plimsolls [shudders].
But we were expected to take part in all manner of activities, from netball, hockey, rounders and gymnastics to track-and-field events such as the long-jump and throwing the shot put. I might have endured it rather than loved it, but I recognise now that Mrs Wilson didn’t personally have it in for me, and forging sick notes didn’t do me any good.
I’ve been thinking about this, because I’ve been wondering recently what on earth my older son is doing in PE lessons. While I send him to school in his PE kit and trainers (we’re still working on the laces) twice a week, I know for sure he’s spending far less time doing games than I did. (Read into that, building up a reserve of humiliating memories, if you like.)
Obviously there’s a climate issue here in Dubai over the hot months, but much of the academic year is blessed with beautiful weather. So, why then, does my son tell me he’s done things like Simon Says in his PE lessons? Today was an even more classic example. “We had to Skype someone in PE today, and ask her questions,” Son1 told me, to my astonishment. “It was a lady in India – the PE teacher’s friend.”
Seriously? No, not skipping – Skyping.
Further questioning revealed this was connected to their current Unit of Inquiry, but I honestly would have preferred that he’d spent the hour running around. After those early years where Son1 was continually moving like a whirling dervish, we’ve now reached the stage where more time is spent on the sofa chasing electronic baddies across a screen.
Swimming is obviously a huge thing in schools here, and both my sons have been swimming twice a week in their school pools, but it seems that to get your children into team sports you have to pay money to private companies that organise sessions in various locations – such as Soccer Kids, who my boys do football with on Saturdays. Then drive your offspring all over the place to attend, knowing that if you don’t their legs might fall off through lack of use.