I watched with dismay the first episode of Channel 4's programme 'Ian Wright's Unfit Kids.' What an example of well-meant, blundering amateurism. I have no doubt that Ian Wright genuinely wants to promote fitness in youngsters but this programme has taken on a group with complex physical, social and emotional problems and one well-intentioned former footballer is not going to solve those problems in six months. In fact, he is far more likely to do a great deal of harm.
I am reliably informed, by an inside source at one of the schools involved in the programme, that the initial brief was to work with a group of youngsters who persistently refuse to join in sports activities. The intention was to motivate them to enjoy sport and to improve their fitness. For reasons not disclosed in the programme, Ian Wright ended up with only one youngster fitting the original criteria and seven others who are seriously overweight.
Instead of a group consisting of kids who don't like sport, or who hate teamwork, are plain lazy or just won't co-operate in any way in school - challenges enough for anyone! - Ian Wright has ended up with individuals with a wide range of problems including poor nutrition, low self-esteem, a history of failure, social exclusionand possible health problems, to mention only the obvious.
We saw within the first few minutes of the first episode that there was no strategic plan, no funding and no expert support available. The vulnerability of the children and their parents was obvious. It was also obvious that there is little hope that the series will end with a group of happy, well-adjusted, fit and slimmed-down youngsters. So what is Channel 4 to do? Scrap the venture or exploit those vulnerable people?
What must it have been like for those children to go into school on Wednesday morning, their weight now public knowledge, their homes exposed, their weaknesses revealed? I think the programme's title should be changed to 'Unfit Adults.'