A school sports’ instructor has welcomed Minister Weir’s challenge to secure PE in schools.
A Newcastle-based children’s sports coach who teaches sports across the wider County Down area has welcomed the Education Minister’s decision to “rethink” the guidelines introduced on Monday meaning all PE classes had to take place outside with no more than 15 pupils writes Laura Barr.
Graham Crory who provides fun fitness activities to primary schools across the south Down area said he was “delighted” that he will now be able to commence his ActiSport classes.
Minister Weir secured a legal challenge to allow schools and other education settings to deliver PE this afternoon (Tuesday).
This followed the Department obtaining an amendment to the current Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations which had meant that only non-contact PE could be provided outdoors in a maximum group of 15.
Speaking to Down News, Graham Crory said: “I’m delighted at the Minister’s decision to rethink the initial rules for physical education in schools.
“As a coach, it’s great to see the government are beginning to realise how crucial exercise is for the physical and mental health of children.
“It has been a long wait for people like me to see children allowed to channel their energy through sport.”
These comments come after Graham was left in a state of panic following Monday’s announcement from the Department of Education when a local principal informed him about the new restrictions to physical exercise in a school setting.
“With the schools reopening on Monday, following Halloween break, I thought that would be the appropriate time for me to start getting back out to the schools and running the ActiSport classes” explained Graham.
“Yesterday morning I had a meeting with a principal from one of the local schools and when I arrived he informed me that he had just received the email from the Department explaining the new guidelines, it was the first I had ever heard of it.”
Graham said this “threw a complete spanner in the works” and he was unable to go ahead with the planned PE sports session he had planned in the school.
He also had an afternoon session booked with Annalong PS and had to reduce the numbers to comply with the new regulations.
“These children had already missed out on so much physical activity and it just seemed very unfair” he added.
“You’ve got 30 odd children sitting inside their classroom all day and they go out to play together at break and lunch time, yet when it comes to PE class, they’re only allowed to participate if it’s a reduced group of 15.
“It just doesn’t make sense” Graham said.
Over lockdown, Graham delivered free and remote ActiSport sessions for children to still reap the benefits of physical exercise.
However, he is concerned that lockdown will lead to an increase in childhood obesity and children with long-lasting mental health issues.
“Lockdown has been really difficult for kids” Graham said.
“For some children, their only real outlet is school and coming to after-school sports clubs like actisport.
“It’s a chance for them to let off a bit of steam, socialise and keep healthy.
“Over the summer when restrictions eased, I was fortunate enough to run some classes in different primary schools in August.
“You wouldn’t believe the reaction I got from the children at these summer camps, usually they would have just taken it all in their stride, just come and go type of attitude but the kids were leaving the camps at the end of the day and thanking me so much and telling me they really appreciated it.
“The kids are really crying out for physical activity, especially ones who have no access to any outside space.
“Socially, children need a lot of interaction, they are in their bubbles at school, but they need to be engaging with other young people too.
“The government really need to start thinking about children and the negative impact this is having on them, probably for many years to come.”
“I just hope that this is now the start of some positive steps for the young people in our country as they haven’t had it easy the last number of months”.