Almost every parent and grandparent will have a story of being made to run around a freezing cold sports field, wearing their PE kit and nothing more. Whether in the name of football, rugby, hockey or lacrosse, very few will claim to have relished the biting wind or cold rain on their bare skin.
Looking back to the PE kit that was standard across the majority of independent schools as recently as just 10 years ago, all year-round boys were often expected to wear shorts and a polo shirt and girls a pleated skirt with polo shirt. When it came to covering up in extremely cold weather (where the sports hall was perhaps being used by another class) there was often no choice but to brave whatever conditions the field had to offer, in your standard PE kit. Some schools were lucky enough to have a long-sleeved polo option, but practically none had anything else that could keep you warm whilst passing as uniformed PE kit.
Do pupils want to take part in PE?
In 2010, the Department of Education (DoE) reported that despite schools providing an average of 19 different sports to both boys and girls across Years 1–3, just 55% of pupils took part in at least three hours of PE or out-of-hours sporting activities each week.
Fast-forward to today, to a society where a ‘no-excuse note policy’ has had to be introduced into UK schools to prevent high numbers of pupils from regularly skipping PE. This government initiative aimed at preventing children who are recovering from illnesses or suffering from conditions which don’t stop them from attending school, to avoid taking part in PE, was implemented to crack down on the growing numbers of children who just did not want to take part in or value their PE lessons.
Changing attitudes towards PE
The DoE states that PE should provide a way for pupils to become ‘physically confident in a way which supports their health and fitness’ as well as to help ‘build character’ and ‘embed values such as fairness and respect’.
However, as many parents will find is true with their children, simply telling them that they can’t do something doesn’t automatically change their attitude. Take the reactions to a uniform policy in an Exeter school earlier this year, where dozens of boys wore skirts during a heat wave, as they were not allowed to wear shorts, as an example. Other schools have recently implemented a gender-neutral uniform policy, where the boys and girls can choose from a skirt uniform or a trousers uniform.
So, the question is, should a similar approach be taken to PE kits? In my opinion, yes – and I can vouch for the fact that some schools are already taking steps to improve their pupils’ experience of PE by making their PE kits more comfortable, weather-appropriate and appealing to wear; all whilst maintaining the standardised look and feel of a uniform. One popular way of doing this is by including hoodies as part of a PE kit, which enables pupils to stay warm in all weather conditions.
By giving pupils something that they want to wear, there is more chance of them both remembering their kit and taking part in PE. Now, some schools make either a polo or hoodie compulsory as part of a PE kit, which gives pupils the freedom to make their own choice about what to wear during PE lessons.
Adapting a PE uniform to add more choice does not have to be expensive. At Leavers Hoodies, we provide hoodies, rugby shirts and sweatshirts that are all easily customisable at a great price.