According to the newspaper Ilta-Sanomat, a boy has died after being hospitalised following a fitness test this past week. He was an upper comprehensive school pupil at the Tiistilä School in Matinkylä, a suburb just west of Helsinki.
The city of Espoo’s director of education, Kaisu Toivonen, told the news agency STT on Sunday that a Tiistilä School pupil had been taken to hospital by ambulance after suddenly falling ill during a gym class. The school’s headmaster, Mirja Pirinen, specified to STT that the patient was an upper comprehensive school pupil, in other words a young teen between seventh and ninth grade.
Tiistilä School is a joint comprehensive school providing primary and secondary education in grades 1-9, which also offers introductory classes for newly arrived immigrant children.
Beep test gauges endurance
The newspaper reports that during the physical education class, pupils were involved in fitness measurements. They are part of a national physical functional capacity monitoring and feedback system for fifth and eighth grade pupils, known as Move!.
Minttu Korsberg, Secretary General of the National Sports Council, told Yle that the 20 metre line run or ‘beep test’, which measures endurance and movement skills, is part of the Move! measurement regime. Each participant runs back and forth along a 20-metre line at increasing speed as long as he or she can manage. As the test goes on, the time between signal beeps becomes shorter. Similar tests are used in other countries under names such as multi-stage fitness or Progressive Aerobic Cardiovascular Endurance Run (PACER) tests.
Test adapted or waived in case of known illness
Korsberg says she has not heard of any pupils having health problems related to such tests before. This autumn is the third time that the programme has been carried out.
“There is a maximum time for the test, when it is halted for each pupil. The other alternative is that the test ends sooner if the runner can’t manage to run anymore. I can’t say how challenging the test is from a medical standpoint,” says Korsberg.
She notes that easier versions of the Move! tests are used for pupils who have known illnesses that permanently limit their functional capacity. Testing is not carried out if a youngster has a short-term illness such as a cold.
Korsberg emphasises that the results of Move! testing do not affect pupils’ physical education grades.
According to the government’s Move! website, it is aimed at “encouraging pupils to independently take care of their physical functional capacity” and produces information that can be combined with extensive health check-ups.
In 2010, the Ministry of Education and Culture and the Finnish National Agency for Education commissioned the University of Jyväskylä’s sports faculty to develop the system.