Daily Physical Activity at School
Over the past few years, The Myalgic Encephalomyelitis Association of Ontario has been advocating with Ministry of Education regarding the needs of students who have M.E./CFS. Multiple correspondence and telephone messages have been exchanged. Our Youth Coordinator, Margaret Parlor, contacted the Ministry of Education regarding concerns about the exercise policy for students in Ontario schools.
December 08, 2006
Margaret Parlor, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis Association of Ontario
Dear Margaret Parlor:
Thank you for your response to my letter addressing your concern about mandatory physical activity in publicly- funded elementary schools across Ontario. I am pleased to respond, on behalf of the Ministry, to your concern about students’ protection as they participate in daily physical activities.
You mentioned in your letter, dated October 24, 2006, that it must be recognized that there are some students with health issues that would exclude them from participating, others that can only handle a reduced program and others who should be closely monitored.
As you may be aware, daily physical activity is a component of Ontario’s Health and physical education curriculum for students in grades 1-8. This curriculum area identifies that, “students should begin early on to acquire basic knowledge about a wide variety of health-related topics and to develop relevant skills. They need to understand how their actions and decisions affect their health, fitness, and personal well-being, and how to apply their learning to make positive, healthy decisions in all areas of life and personal development” (p.2). All areas of the health and physical education curriculum, including daily physical activity, must ensure that the skills taught are appropriate for the students’ age and stage of development, and to their learning styles and special needs. In order to do this, teachers must use a variety of instructional approaches to ensure that all students are given every opportunity to learn and perform to their full potential.
Resources were developed for teachers, principals and school board leaders to support the implementation of daily physical activity in elementary schools. Each resource provides supports in the area of Inclusion of All Students in Daily Physical Activity that is consistent with the Ministry of Education policy.
You stated in your letter that for a student with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/ Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, forcing participation is disrespectful and harmful. It is important to remember that no child should be required to participate in inappropriate levels of exercise nor should they need to be removed from school to avoid participation. Communication with parents and with school staff is important in determining any accommodations and adaptations to daily physical activities. Helping young people lead healthy, active lives is a shared responsibility in which schools play a critical role and daily physical activities is only one of the components of the government’s Healthy Schools Initiative.
Your concerns are of importance to me and I appreciate the time you have taken to bring them to my attention.
Thank you for writing.