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Published 17th September 2007, 1:3pm

A recently published report on the quality of Physical Education (PE) offered in Cayman’s schools is timely in its arrival amidst current debate on child obesity, a comprehensive overhaul of the National Curriculum for schools and the government’s drive to establish an effective National Sports Policy.

In March of this year the Cayman Islands Schools’ Inspectorate joined forces with expert Carole Raymond, previously the point-person for Physical Education at Her Majesty’s Inspectorate in the United Kingdom, to conduct a survey of public and private schools. There is no mincing in the report, which makes for interesting reading as it reveals both the strengths and weaknesses inherent in Cayman’s schools.

The report states that there is ‘overwhelming consensus amongst principals and teachers that physical education has traditionally been undervalued as a subject in the school curriculum’. It also indicates that many of these educators recognise ‘significant weaknesses in provision and raise concerns about students’ negative attitudes and low standards of performance.’

According to the report, commitment to PE provision is ‘stronger and more consistent’ in private schools, measures of which include the time dedicated to the subject in the curriculum, the range of opportunities on offer to students, and access to indoor and outdoor facilities of high standard. The report also concludes that private schools demonstrate ‘recognition that ‘physical education makes a valuable contribution to the social and personal development of students, which can lead to improvements in behaviour and concentration in academic subjects.’

The report goes on to praise evidence of good practices in public schools as well, such as North Side Primary, Savannah, John Gray and Lighthouse School. It also reveals that ‘in the majority of schools, there is a commitment to helping students achieve well.’ The report concludes too that ‘in most lessons observed, students worked with enthusiasm and showed a willingness to learn.’

The reports’ findings were welcomed at the Ministry of Education, Training, Employment, Youth, Sports & Culture, whose Minister, Hon. Alden McLaughlin, JP, remarked, “I have long extolled the virtues of physical activity as a vital component of our young people’s development. My Ministry is working rigorously through our reviews of the schools’ curriculum and national sports policy to ensure that Cayman’s youth enjoy ample opportunity to be active and healthy, and this report adds further clarity to those processes. The importance of PE is all too often undervalued in schools but it will be among our priorities in the roll-out of the new national curriculum at the start of next year.”

The Schools’ Inspectorates’ Chief Inspector of Schools, Mrs. Helena McVeigh, is delighted that the survey was led by someone with Ms. Raymond’s breadth of knowledge and skills. Speaking about the value of PE to students, Mrs. McVeigh commented, “There is growing international concern about the fitness of students in school and the impact this will have on their health in the future. PE is an essential part of the school curriculum, which serves the dual purpose of helping to develop young people’s physical skills as well as making them aware of the role of physical activity in a healthy lifestyle”. She also explained how the government’s review of the national curriculum for schools emphasises the place of PE in students’ timetables, citing the draft curriculum document for the subject, which states, “A healthy, physically active lifestyle is conducive to more effective participation in all that society has to offer and to greater levels of success within and beyond school.”

The PE report is available on the Ministry's website.

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