Let us begin by establishing that PE should be renamed ‘physical & emotional health education‘. Teachers care deeply about the emotional health of their pupils but until the policy makers make it a priority schools can only do so much.
Physical & emotional health education would deal with the handling of human emotions and relationships and with the human body – its development and health, together with the skills of co-ordination and team-work acquired through a combination of sport, exercise and mindfulness practices.
It is vital that the significance of this configuration be properly understood. I believe that it makes pastoral as well as educational sense to group together physical and emotional health and indeed for it to be named a mandatory component of a school’s curriculum.
I’m convinced that through emotional health we promote conflict resolution, change from within, loving kindness, compassion, community building and the concept of interdependence.
Schools should continue to provide inter-class & inter-school tournaments which provide every child with the opportunity to compete. PE, like any other curriculum area is differentiated to cater for all abilities ensuring that all children gain a positive experience from their learning.
Complementing this physical learning will be the theory, knowledge and understanding of our body and what makes us healthy. A close link to ‘Citizenship and Ethics’ would help develop children’s emotional literacy… I’ll explain;
Sport is one of the most mindful activities anyone can undertake. When a person is playing sport they are in the moment. Being competitive is part of our nature and can be seen as positive if viewed through the eyes of interconnectedness. Children want to work hard and play well for each other. Working hard shows how using right effort, loving-speech and right action can help us reach our full potential. Playing for a team and showing effort is what should bring us pleasure as much as winning.
Losing provides us with valuable lessons in accepting the suffering which can come with this. How best to deal with those feelings is an important part of why we continue to take part in competitive sport with children. We should give children the skills on how to deal with this using mindfulness practices.
Many sportspeople discuss the fact that their favourite part of playing is providing the platform for others to express themselves on the field. Defending well so other players have a chance to express themselves and create opportunities for their peers requires right effort, speech, action and mindfulness. The key thing we want children to take away from playing competitive sport at school is that of the community and teams working hard for each-other. We want to encourage loving-speech to be used when children see their peers, regardless of ability, putting in right-effort. In turn this will encourage children to see their peers as a place of refuge for when they are playing poorly, making mistakes or are disappointed by the result.