Call to free teachers for sport

The Scottish Sports Council is putting schools at the heart of its development strategy for the next century and says staff who organise extracurricular sport should have more back-up, time off, recognition and payment. "Pressure on the curriculum means few teachers have time to organise school sport," the council warns.

But the council, which launches a Sport 21 strategy at a seminar in Glasgow today (Friday), fears that specialist physical education provision is being lost because of council cutbacks. "This will have serious implications for sport, especially given the poor level of physical education provision in Scotland's primary schools," it says.

The council is demanding more funding from a variety of sources, new partnerships between schools and clubs, sports co-ordinators in schools, development officers responsible for school sport and strategies for girls aged 14-18. Pressure on indoor sports halls would be halved if school facilities were available for community use in the evenings, at weekends and in the holidays, it argues.

The report reaffirms recent research on the lack of physical activity among the young and the need for a pattern of regular exercise to be established early in life. For young children, movement is "essential to physical, psychological and intellectual development". A Start Young Stay Active campaign, targeted at primary children, aims to counter the trends.

Physical education specialists are said to have "a unique and crucial opportunity to influence" but there is "a pressing need" for pre-service and in-service training for primary teachers in delivering PE programmes.

Sport, the report concludes, must be relevant to young people's lifestyles, fashionable, reflective of youth culture and affordable. Teenagers should be targeted as sports leaders.

It adds: "Girls aged 14-18 years need particular encouragement to remain involved in sport and programmes need to be designed accordingly. Alternatives to team games should be provided: segregated activities, individual sports, aerobics and step classes are all possible options. For girls from ethnic minority communities, traditional dance can be a way of introducing them to increased levels of physical activity."

If young people are to continue their involvement, the image has to be positive, exciting, adventurous, individualistic, appealing and non-threatening. Body image tends to be a major motivating factor.

The report observes that sport will benefit individual pupils and allow a closer identification with the school and its values. It recognises that many opportunities are provided by teachers voluntarily with the support of parents and others. "The management of the extended curriculum and resources allocated to it is a key issue," the authors say. Headteachers are urged to include sports programmes in their development plans.

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