Private Primary Schools Are 'Fitter' And 'Better At Physical Skills' Than Public Schools

15/03/2016 6:29 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 01: Australian cricketer Karen Rolton plays cricket with students during the 1Seven Media Launch at Footscray West Primary School August 01, 2006 in Melbourne Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

A study of primary school students has found those at private and Catholic schools are more likely to be physically fitter, which the study's author puts down to a greater emphasis on specialist sports teachers.

Over the last three decades Dr Garry Tester -- CEO and founder of Sports Challenge Australia -- has tracked the fitness and skill levels of 38,000 children across the country aged six to 12.

"Obesity and type two diabetes is an epidemic in the general community and we are seeing it for the first time in primary schools.

"If we want healthier, fitter and more skilled children in our community, we need to prioritise it early in their lives," Tester said.

According to Tester's research, there is a six percent difference in fitness levels between students at private schools and their public school counterparts.

"More alarmingly, we found the skill difference between schools is 15 percent," Tester said.

Skills relate to fundamental movement and ball skills associated with hand-eye coordination, footing, dribbling, catching and throwing, Tester said.

Tester -- who is also an adjunct professor at the University of Western Australia -- said a combination of high-fee paying private schools and lower-fee Catholic schools make physical education more of a priority compared to public primary schools.

"The private sector have university-trained physical education teachers. They understand fundamental movement skills, flexibility and stretching as well as understanding how to teach the sporting skills that are required.

"We found that around Australia, only one in 10 public schools had a trained physical education specialist," Tester said.

school students excercise

The skill difference between students at private primary schools and public primary schools is 15 percent.

School sport policy advisor for NSW Department of Education Peter Tomlin told HuffPost Australia, there are no specialist physical education teachers in NSW primary schools.

"All teachers in NSW public primary schools teach all key learning areas including art, literacy, numeracy and physical education. All our teachers are multi-skilled to teach all areas of the curriculum in primary school.

"Some schools might see it as necessary to engage with a specialist teacher. That can be a local school decision and they will come up with a means of doing that," Tomlin said.

The NSW Department of Education has a sport and physical activity policy requiring every student from kindergarten to year 10 to do 150 minutes of sport and physical activity a week, Tomlin said.

Tester said physical education departments around Australia need to ensure that there is a physical education specialist in every public school or a shared physical education specialist between a number of schools.

"We've got a glut of graduates from sport science who are looking for a job, but can't find one."

Tester stressed the importance of kids having a positive attitude towards physical activity.

"It's easier to change attitudes and behaviours of younger children. If they don't get the right skills and physical activity in primary school, they opt out in high school.

"We aren't trying to build sport stars, but the fact we have had to create walk to school day is ridiculous," Tester said.

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