THE teaching of Scottish country dancing in PE is causing children to be bullied and may even have to be scrapped, according to experts.
Generations of Scottish teenagers have experienced the discomfort of having to dance with members of the opposite sex instead of doing football, swimming and gymnastics.
Now the chair of the national association of PE teachers has suggested the time may have come to drop traditional country dancing from classes.
Campaigners have warned that learning social dance in school can lead to less masculine pupils suffering “hurtful” and “very explicit” remarks from classmates.
It is also claimed that youngsters suffer from increased anxiety during dance lessons because nobody wants to be picked last.
The stress of country dancing is even leading to widespread bullying of LGBTI youngsters, with a leading charity noticing a marked increased in calls from pupils seeking help when their schools did social dance.
Karen McCubbin, general secretary of the Scottish Association of Teachers and Physical Education (SATPE) feels the “gender-specific” nature of social dance could provide a link to bullying and homophobia.
She asked: “Do we drop social dance for the curriculum, perhaps, or do we shift the way it’s taught?”
She feels that the best option would be to delve deeper into the “cultural heritage” of social dance and open up “the debate about why girls and boys would be paired.”
Hugh Torrance, executive director of Leap Sports Scotland, who campaign for greater inclusion of LGBTI people in sport, has revealed that his charity notices a spike in calls from LGBT pupils when the time comes for social dance to be introduced in P.E classes.
Although he’s not calling for dance lessons to be scrapped, Mr Torrance does believe more needs to be done to sharpen the blurred lines between what’s right and wrong.
He said: “We work with young people in schools and dancing brings up some issues because it’s not always clear what is ‘banter’ and what’s not.
“Dancing tends to bring issues up because P.E. is still one of the areas where boys and girls are segregated but at Christmas for country dancing, they’re brought together.
“The novelty of bringing all the class together for social dancing on an annual basis creates another layer for a proving ground of masculinity.
“There generally tends to be a lot of uncomfortableness and the pupils feel it’s amplified. One recent story was when a boy pulled his sleeve over his hand so he didn’t have to touch the ‘gay boy’ incase he caught it.”
He continued: “Over 20 years ago, when I was in school, I remember similar types of things so it’s not moved on.
“We’re absolutely not calling for it to be taken out of schools but nobody has the definitive line on what’s okay and what’s not.
“We’re going to be meeting with young people to produce a list of do’s and don’ts to be distributed around schools and we’d also like better support of teachers calling out homophobic behaviour.”
42% of all lesbian, gay and bisexual school pupils across the UK have claimed to be bullied within a P.E. changing room, making this the most common location in schools.
32% of gay and bisexual boys have claimed to be bullied during school sport, highlighting the difficulties faced by youngsters.
Certain dances, such as ‘Strip the Willow’ and the ‘Eightsome Reel’ are thought to provide safer territory for teachers to teach as they are performed in larger groups where pupils are not in contact with the same classmate.
Mr Torrance hopes that guidance for teachers Leap Sports Scotland are producing will be available by the school year 2017-18.