Commitee calls for radical overhaul of teaching of PE


According to a report published today by the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee, there has been a lamentable failure to deliver the target, set in 2004, for two hours’ quality physical education for every school pupil.

In its Report on Pathways into Sport and Physical Activity, the committee recognises PE as the only comprehensive way of ensuring that all children and young people have the skills to lead a physically active life. It is highly critical of education authorities and HM Inspectorate of Education for failing to give PE the same status as other curricular subjects.

Committee Convener Christine Grahame MSP said: “We are deceiving ourselves if we think Scotland is a physically active nation. The committee’s evidence tells us that Scots have not been inspired by the likes of Chris Hoy, Andy Murray or Liz McColgan to get off the sofa, stop being couch potatoes and do some exercise. Given the very worrying projections for obesity levels in Scotland, the committee believes we need to put much more emphasis on PE and the links between school and community sports.

"We know that active children are more likely to do well at school so more PE in the curriculum is likely to produce educational benefits. Unfortunately, the target of ensuring that all school pupils received two hours' PE by 2008 was completely missed. We believe that the Scottish Government, directors of education and individual head teachers all need to raise their game to ensure that the target can be met by the new date of August 2010.

"East Renfrewshire Council is an excellent example of this ‘can-do’ attitude. As a result of strong leadership, co-ordinated working and being prepared to take radical action, it has proved that PE performance can be turned around without the need for additional money from central government.”

The committee also made a number of further conclusions/recommendations under a number of headings:

1. PE

  • The Scottish Government should not sign off any new local authority single outcome agreement that does not feature the two-hour target unless the local authority has already met the target of the Scottish Government and is content that the local authority is firmly on track to meet the target by August 2010.
  • If any school is unable to meet the target by August 2010, the headteacher should be obliged to provide a report stating the reasons why this is the case.
  • Each primary school pupil should receive a physical literacy assessment to ensure that by the time each pupil reaches secondary school they have the necessary skills to learn specific sports.
  • Pupil report cards should refer to a pupil’s physical literacy skills.
  • There is still a very real need for a general upskilling of all primary school classroom teachers in the teaching of PE.

2. Active Schools

  • The Scottish Government should organise a conference on the Active Schools programme to ensure that this programme is taken forward to 2011 and beyond.

3. The need for integrated, local sports provision

  • Each local authority should have a sports strategy that includes the following elements:

- Teaching of PE and transition into sport outside of school;

- Facilities including (1) the maintenance and upgrading of facilities and (2) improving access to local authority facilities, including use of the school estate; and

- Capacity building in local sports clubs.

  • The Committee believes there is a need for a national initiative led by the Scottish Government of sportscotland to ‘unlock the potential’ for schools to be more widely used by the wider community.

According to Audit Scotland the number of adults participating in sport on a weekly basis fell from 49 per cent in 2001 to 42 per cent in 2006.

The most recent figures show that obesity rates rose from 16 per cent to 22 percent for adult men between 1995 and 2003 (and 27 per cent to 24 percent for adult women). Revised figures will be published later this year.

A target that each school pupil should have two hours' quality PE each week was established by the Scottish Executive in 2004. The target was to be achieved within four years.

There is no data available on the current national picture. HMIE has stated that in 2008, of the 237 primary schools inspected, around a third met the target. Of the 50 secondary schools inspected, two-thirds of pupils received two hours' PE in S1/S2; declining to a ‘majority’ of pupils in S3/S4 and only one in seven at S5/S6.


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