So Michael Dimwit Gove wants schools to punish children with exercise?
Schools are already punishing children with exercise and have done for generations.
There’s nothing quite like school sports teaching for encouraging students to LOATHE sport.
I was an inherently lazy child – like 80% of my school year. Of course there were some who were naturals at sport, like there were ‘naturals’ at art and music but most of us resisted exhortations to Do Sport.
The budding sports stars who might represent the school were very obviously the favourites of those teachers who wore a tracksuit around the place as a badge of honour.
Those who couldn’t or wouldn’t do sports were vilified, bullied and treated as worthless, hopeless cases – this was particularly bad if you were one of those boys who couldn’t play soccer or rugby or often produced sick notes excusing them from taking part.
Very often those same boys were excellent at chemistry, maths or physics so at least it was possible for them to shine in another area. I pitied the sporting no-hopers who were only average at everything else. Their self-esteem didn’t stand a chance.
Why would anyone want to voluntarily jog around the running track at school looking like an eejit? I had a go one sunny day when the sky was blue and the grass was green and no teachers were about. I donned my Dunlop Green Flashes and set off. Forty paces later, I was red-faced and falling-over tired.
Lesson learned. Never be tempted to set the bar too high – particularly in the high jump. A friend and I thought we were horses for several years of our childhood so I was used to showjumping…. well.. ok… jumping the height of my own knee.
But when we were introduced to the high jump as preparation for Sports Day, they set the bar at the height of my eyes. Obviously my human body was not meant to spring itself into the air because when I did attempt it, a crashing noise and a painful falling thing happened.
Similarly with long jump, it took an awful lot of running to make it into the sand. By the time I should have been ready for take-off, I was, quite frankly, tired. Not achieving the sandpit didn’t make me any more popular with teachers, I found.
The javelin was more promising. I felt like an Amazon standing there, body tilted back, aiming my pointy thing at the sky before running and dramatically flinging it – but it always landed flat on the grass.
The discus was better but generally seemed to travel in quite unintended directions due to me releasing my latent power at the wrong moment accompanied by cries of “Watch out!” from nearby observers.
Putting the cannon-ball was much more promising. Basically you just had to sort of dump it into the air and hope it landed quite far away. Of course it didn’t because it was really heavy and really, it would have been sensible to have a cannon to hand to fire the thing. But the fact that it landed only a few paces away made it quite convenient to fetch and try again.
The only game I remotely liked was hockey – I had a handsome stick with a beautifully varnished hook and it more than made up for my hockey boots smelling of old mackerel. I also liked the skirt, which was gored grey flannel mid-thigh length. It felt sporty just to wear it and stand about posing with my lovely hockey stick – let alone flying down the right wing. But when I got picked for the team, I couldn’t get to school on Saturdays to play. I gave up, with bitterness in my heart.
Cross-country running was a disaster. We used to trot disconsolately out of the school gates, walk up the hill and, on a good day, a bunch of us girls would disappear off the track and find a quiet place to take our aertex shirts off for a bit of sun worshipping. We’d lope back to school a good 45 minutes late and claim we got lost. They couldn’t touch you for it.
Being of a contrary disposition, I was much better at, and really enjoyed the sports they didn’t teach me at school: tennis, swimming and sunbathing with a good book.
Tennis was so perfect in the long summer holidays. You could wear really short swingy little white skirts get your legs nutbrown, rest between sets swigging real lemonade or chilled diet Coke while lying about on the grass in the sun.
Swimming was pretty good too. I’ve never minded cold water, secretly loving the bracing effect of a cold plunge and risking extreme hypothermia so I liked the lido whatever the weather. There’s something anarchic about swimming in the rain, when the cold water’s still warmer than the cold pitter-pattery drops on your hair.
Chances are, if I’d been taught either of those activities at school, I’d have hated them too.
My kids learned to swim before having school swimming lessons – and marveled later at how no-one who couldn’t swim ever actually learned to do so at school swimming lessons.
My brother was dead average at school sports and not great at soccer but a national junior cycling champion outside school.
So no, Mr Gove, don’t even think about using exercise as punishment at school. In fact don’t force exercise of any sort at all on school kids.
Instead, give them a couple of afternoons a week when they can choose their activity… and provide role-model sports ambassadors to inspire kids into giving sports a try.
Don’t just offer the easy-to-provide field sports, the soccer, the hockey, the rugby but offer road-race cycling, mountainbiking, track-racing, horse-riding, dry-slope skiing, fencing, archery, mountain-boarding, bowling, bouldering, climbing, snooker, pool, darts!!
That’s the way to get kids active. Let them find out what they like.
If you really want to punish them, there’s always the old pointless and ultra-tedious Saturday morning detention presided over by some old crusty teacher with a face like a bulldog chewing a wasp. I’d run a mile to avoid that, for sure!