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Extra 400 staff sought in PE pledge

Ministers have pledged within four years to give every primary and secondary pupil at least two hours of physical education a week. An extra 400 PE teachers are to be recruited to ensure schools deliver the commitment.

Peter Peacock, the Education Minister, on Monday launched the Scottish Executive response to the PE review group (TESS last week) by unexpectedly going beyond the recommendations of the report, drafted by Michael O'Neill, education director in North Lanarkshire. The minister has accepted all the proposals.

Mr Peacock described his initiative as "the biggest boost for PE for generations" after repeatedly promising to deliver on PE - a personal interest since school days in Hawick under the tutelage of Bill McLaren, the former rugby commentator and PE teacher.

The minister has toughened the Executive's approach through guidance to local authorities, which will remind them of their duties under the 2000 Education Act in meeting the national priorities. He insisted schools will be able to find the time in their curriculum for PE and has upped the pace by asking the inspectorate to monitor progress. But he dismissed any suggestions of compulsion. "We will deliver more time in the curriculum, more teachers and more choice in Scottish schools. What I am announcing is a major extension of an area in need of more attention," he said during the launch at Lasswade High in Midlothian.

The extra teachers will mean that secondaries will be able to recruit something like an extra 1.5 full-time equivalent staff to work in primary clusters and in the secondary PE department.

Mr O'Neill said his recommendations retained the strength of Scottish primaries - "the envy of Europe" - and avoided turning them into mini-secondaries with large numbers of specialists. "It is a good day for PE," he said.

Mr Peacock said the forthcoming national curriculum review would reveal how to find space for PE. Meanwhile, the Scottish SchoolSport Federation has said it is "disappointed" that the review missed the chance to strengthen school sport.

Two years ago, Nicol Stephen, then junior minister, confirmed that out-of-school sport would be included but it was subsequently dropped. Its place is now to be considered in a review of out-of hours-learning.

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