Sport and PE: at the core of our educational provision

Despite my own experience at school, where my participation in Physical Exercise (PE) and sport was handicapped by late physical development and lack of personal confidence, I now have a passion for sport; and my following of one sport in particular comes below only my professional and family commitments.

But my interest in sport goes beyond the personal, and is rooted in my conviction that participation in it is as an essential part of one’s education as the study of maths, science and the humanities, for example. I should not need to rehearse the reasons behind that axiom, but it seems to contrast with the recent steady erosion of the priority given to PE and sport in at least many UK schools, and the decline of physical exercise by young people in general.

Leaving aside the missed opportunities presented by the absence of sport and PE at school for the development of personal skills and confidence, lack of physical exercise is also creating a ticking time bomb, likely to explode in middle age at the latest, for the general health of the nation. It is time that educational authorities recognised that the health of the body and that of the mind are mutually dependent.

Fortunately, independent schools not only have greater resources to invest in sport and PE but also the independence to apply their educational conviction that they are a vital ingredient of a balanced and full education. International schools in general, and Southbank in particular, are no exception. Indeed, we are very proud to offer a very wide range of sporting opportunities, to reflect the exceptionally diverse community which we promote and cherish.

That PE is a compulsory part of the formal curriculum from EC (aged 3) level to Grade 10 (16) reflects that priority. From Grade 1 students are taught PE for nearly three hours a week, and in that time develop a huge range of different skills, ranging from team sports, through gymnastics and the development of spatial awareness, to basic fitness and muscle strength building. ‘Physical and health education’ makes up one of the eight compulsory subjects of the MYP curriculum (studied from aged11 to 16), and includes the academic study of PE as well as the development of physical skills.

Our extracurricular sports programme – the vast majority of whose options are offered free of charge – affirms our commitment to the promotion of sport outside the formal curriculum as well as within it. In addition to the more familiar sports like football, swimming, basketball, volleyball and badminton on offer, there is the opportunity to experience physical activities whose diversity reflects that of our community in general. How about Taekwon-do, futsal, street dance or cheerleading, if the more mainstream sports do not appeal? There are sporting opportunities for everyone.

The provision of these activities is matched by the school’s commitment of human and physical resources to ensure our students develop their sporting skills in the most favourable of conditions. We may be situated in the middle of London but a purpose built sports centre, purchased by the owners of the school three years ago, the hiring of other sporting venues, and the opportunities that the green open spaces London provides, all permit staff to teach PE and sports well, and students to develop their potential in them.

When I was thirteen I broke my arm by being thrown out of a rugby scrum. I have vivid memories, too, of making little impression on right backs as I scampered down the left wing with a football at my feet. I enjoyed sport at school as much as my physical size allowed me to. But, more importantly, I am now convinced that it was a vital part of my education which taught skills I deploy fulfilling my responsibilities today. Southbank believes that sport and PE are an essential part of a young person’s development, and – in this area of school life as in others – practises, I believe, what it preaches.