Physical education teachers go missing

“Where have all the good people gone?” sang Canadian rocker Sam Roberts in his 2003 radio hit of the same name. Fast forward a decade and the same could be asked of Canada’s physical education (PE) teachers. It seems they’ve gone missing.

In Ready, Set, Go! Building Healthy Schools in Ontario, People for Education – an independent, parent-led organization – outlines some concerning trends in the Ontario school system. The report found that only 45 percent of Ontario elementary schools have a specialist health and PE teacher, and that the majority of those teachers are part time.

Although Ontario has instituted a policy where each child gets a mandatory 20 minutes of daily physical activity, this number often isn’t reached. Many principals blame this shortcoming on insufficient time, equipment, space, and/or teacher training to properly implement the program.

According to a CTV Toronto news story, Ontario elementary schools are doing well in terms of reading, writing and math. Principals and teachers feel the pressure to get these results up, but they don’t feel the same push to increase students’ levels of health and well-being.

But it’s not just Ontario schools with this problem. On March 18, CBC Radio One’s The World at Six featured an interview with Dr. David Chorney, who teaches education at the University of Alberta and specializes in PE curriculum. Dr. Chroney said the rest of the country has statistics similar to those of Ontario. He said Quebec and Nova Scotia stand apart because they only permit specially trained teachers to run health and PE programs.

A Globe and Mail article states Manitoba is the only province with mandatory PE all the way through high school.

The People for Education report goes on to claim that less than 20 percent of school-age children meet Canadian guidelines of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity every day. When Active for Life’s Dr. Dean asked if our true north really was strong and free, we learned that 95 percent of Canadians live a sedentary lifestyle while 65 percent of our population is overweight or obese.

With burgeoning obesity and diminished physical activity levels, never has the need for PE programming been greater. So, where have all the PE teachers gone?

To advocate for better PE curriculum in your child’s school, help get physical literacy on the agenda with the BACK P.A.C. resource.

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