On Monday, Federal Sports Minister, Bridget McKenzie, said state governments should make sports and physical literacy compulsory in schools.
The announcement follows a broader push improve children's health and performance in class, which research shows is linked.
“Sport is a powerful platform for a whole lot of things, not just for the fun of it [and] I want to use the power of sport whenever I can.” Senator McKenzie told News Corp on Monday.
Physical education as a subject is already compulsory in high schools, but Minister McKenzie later told 3AW that it was “hit and miss” whether public schools were offering sport as part of the curriculum, especially in regional areas where schools often struggle to attract specialised teachers.
“If you’re physically literate, and all that means is you have the confidence and motivation to be active, you’re actually going to do better academically,” she said.
McKenzie said it was equally concerning that parents had been handballed the responsibility of organising and paying for swimming lessons.
“We have state schools, in an island nation where we love to get out and get active, where kids are graduating from primary school where they don’t know how to swim,” she said.
So should schools make sport and physical literacy compulsory?
NSW Secondary Principals Council (NSWSPC) president, Chris Presland, said he was surprised at the Minister’s proposal given that both sport and PD/H/PE are already mandatory parts of the curriculum in NSW.
“Probably a more important part of the obesity crisis in Australia – if that is what is driving the Minister's comment – is the need to focus on the dietary habits established by parents,” Presland told The Educator.
“There also needs to be a more serious approach to the way our society handles fast food advertising and food labelling. Schools simply cannot be expected to pick up everything.”
Like Presland, Australian Primary Principals Association (APPA) president, Dennis Yarrington, said he would welcome teacher education courses having mandatory competency levels of graduating teachers to teach the PE Learning Area of the curriculum.
"The challenge is supporting all teachers in the primary school to have the necessary competence and confidence to teach the curriculum," Yarrington told The Educator.
"A focus on physical activity is a whole of community task, not just schools. It requires parents, community organisations, governments and sporting clubs to work together in collaboration with schools. Physical literacy begins well before school, as does readiness for learning in literacy and numeracy."