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Early start to an active life

An ambitious project is under way to develop a manual for primary school teachers to deliver quality physical education lessons in a bid to stem the rise of obesity.

Every primary teacher within East Renfrewshire will be guided by the Active 8 resource pack, which is being funded by an pound;80,000 Scottish Executive grant and written with the help of Strathclyde university. The authority says the approach will give children "physical literacy" to allow them to build on their skills at secondary school and to keep active into adult life.

Nationwide, one in three girls and one in four boys do not meet the recommended physical activity levels, while a third of 12-year-olds are overweight. This is thought in part to be a result of low participatory rates in physical activities.

Ian Pye, Active 8 manager for the council, says the illustrated manual, with step-by-step lessons covering nursery to P7, will help teachers to deliver enhanced PE lessons. "We don't have PE specialists in every primary and secondary school and for the foreseeable future class teachers will have to teach PE," he says. "But its delivery is variable because these teachers are non-specialists. They might have had one day in their teacher training on PE, which doesn't give them the confidence or skills to give a high quality lesson.

"Although children's lack of fundamental movement skills and fundamental sport skills is not the only factor in the poor health statistics prevalent in Scotland, it is a contributory factor and is an issue that the education system should be tackling.

"We've got to put our hands up and say we are a contributing factor to that and do something about that in terms of physical literacy."

East Renfrewshire's Active 8 programme will be split into four key phases, from nurseryP1, through to P7S1, so pupils have a pathway of learning that introduces and reinforces basic skills.

All of East Renfrewshire's active training co-coordinators will be taught to deliver the resource pack on a cluster basis and every teacher will have the opportunity to learn the fundamental skills as part of their professional development.

The authority hopes to roll out the programme to all schools next August. A pilot will run at Netherlee Primary in Glasgow. The school has Scotland's only full-time primary PE teacher, Emma Barrett, who is on the working party for the Active 8 programme.

"I didn't get a big grounding in primary PE, which is different from working with secondary pupils," she says, "but I have enjoyed this and it's great that I see the children from the very beginning, some as young as 3."

"When they get older they are often turned off by sports, but we try to give them a positive experience. They may not take it to a high level, but it's worthwhile even if it's just for a game with a friend."

Sandra Mitchell, the head at Netherlee Primary, decided to employ a full-time PE teacher last year to reinforce the school's health promoting focus. "This was something we wanted as a staff. Because of the new non-contact time for teachers, I wanted the children to have a quality experience when they weren't working with their own teachers."

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