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Changed goals

Limited time and resources pose difficulties for ensuring all pupils have at least two hours of physical education a week, as the Education Minister insists. So how do the North Lanarkshire sports comprehensives do it? Douglas Blane reports

Education authorities used to have no statutory duty for the development of children's physical abilities. This changed with the Standards in Scotland's Schools etc Act 2000, which required them to ensure that the education they provide is "directed to the development of the personality, talents and mental and physical abilities of the child or young person to their fullest potential."

In the wake of the National Physical Activity Task Force set up by Scottish ministers in June 2001, which reported an alarming level of inactivity among Scotland's children (by the age of 16 a third of boys and two-thirds of girls are not active enough to maintain good health), the review group on physical education was set up by the Scottish Executive in 2002. Chaired by North Lanarkshire's director of education, Michael O'Neill, the group reported in June this year, making various recommendations.

These included:

* All schools and education authorities should work towards providing two hours a week of quality physical education for every child.

* Every primary school should have adequate access to support from a physical education specialist.

* The review of the curriculum should affirm the entitlement of all pupils to quality physical education as a core part of their curriculum.

* The Scottish Executive should make entry requirements for initial teacher education in physical education more flexible, so that a wider range of backgrounds and qualifications is acceptable.

* Schools should broaden the range of experiences and activities available to pupils.

In responding to the report, the Education Minister, Peter Peacock, said: "I am not just accepting the report's recommendations, I am going further than they suggested." The headline measures he announced in June were:

* at least two hours a week of PE for all pupils,

* 400 more PE teachers, and

* greater choice of activities.

In addition, guidance will be issued to education authorities to help them monitor progress towards the two-hour target, and HM inspectors will monitor progress and develop guidelines on best practice.

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