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Antiquated school sport threatens the fitness of youth

An outdated physical education syllabus is failing the fitness of our school children according to Olympic and physical education expert Sheila Wigmore from Sheffield Hallam University. She also highlights the importance of the 2012 Olympics in helping shine a positive light on the UK following the involvement in the Middle East crisis.

A member of several British Olympic groups and sport lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, Sheila Wigmore claims 'the demise of home economics, combined with the onset of fast food and computer game culture and being confined to the house by parents concerned with the perceived lack of safety on the street' have added to young obesity issues. However she also believes school physical education, which is comparable to the 1933 curriculum, doesn't engage children with 'far too much emphasis on competitive games.'

She said: "We have got to move away from the health aspect and start promoting the social. Children are becoming adults much younger and are worried about their hair, nails and getting sweaty - telling an 11 year old that sport will make them healthier at fifty doesn't register. However showing that activity can help them make friends and be happy in a range of environments will help them enjoy moving their bodies again, whilst coincidentally improving their health. Local Authorities and sporting clubs need to work with schools for this to happen."

Sheila began her love affair with the Olympics in 1989 after a conference paper given by Doctor Don Anthony captivated her with anecdotes of its unique history and future possibilities. The sporting ambassador then became involved with the British Olympic Association and the National Olympic Academy. She is now part of a team at Sheffield Hallam spearheading the Lighting the Flame campaign that embodies the city's ongoing commitment to the Olympics, ensuring the region's sporting offer en route to 2012 is promoted.

"I'm angered by the negative media around the London 2012 Olympics. It is a very important occasion for the UK. The Olympics has brought together nations since 1896. Olympism is still strong promoting friendship, tolerance and understanding. We are showcasing the nation across the world, and particularly given our current involvement in the Middle East, this has got to be good opportunity to show other facets of our nation.

"If you speak to any sports person, being the Olympic champion is more important to them than being a world champion. Despite not being paid during the Games, the sponsorship and media coverage afterward can make them millions of pounds. But in addition to this, sports tourism brings money into the country and individual cities, and our very British 'it's never going to work' and 'will cost too much' attitude has got to end!"

Sheffield Hallam plays an active role in supporting the growth and development of budding young Olympians. The University's elite athlete programs support sporting champions such as Olympic silver medal diver Leon Taylor, Commonwealth Games triathlete Damian Thacker and bronze European Athletics Championships winner Sam Ellis to complete studies between training.

Sheila's academic work focuses on the philosophy of physical education, sport ethics and the sociology of sport and physical education, and is an active member of the Association for Physical Education that supports physical education in schools and community.

"Given that Sheffield is the first City of Sport I think it's shocking our region is one of the most inactive [according to the latest research by Sport England]. We need to become a city of exercise and activity. There was so much reorganising and funding put towards the World Student Games that local facilities fell into disrepair. I appreciate there are more complex issues going on and without the games Sheffield wouldn't have regenerated through sport tourism, but there should be more money in the pot to distribute to local exercise and sport facilities - and this isn't just a problem for Sheffield!"

Sheila will discuss how physical education can contribute to creating active people for life and establishing appreciative spectators and volunteers for the 2012 Olympics during a public lecture at Sheffield Hallam University on 17 January, 2007. Tickets for the event are free but should be booked in advance through or 0114 225 4957.

Donna Goodwin | alfa
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