Fitness hurdle for PE

JOHN BEATTIE, former Scottish rugby international and now a BBC sports broadcaster, has tackled the deepening crisis over young people's activity levels by calling for a thorough review of core physical education in primaries and secondaries. The emphasis on certificated PE is the number one target.

With two out of three 16-year-old girls and one in three boys of the same age failing to reach basic activity and fitness levels, the Physical Activity Task Force chaired by Mr Beattie yesterday (Thursday) demanded major policy and practice shifts to meet a threat to long-term health and well-being.

The task force wants all children from nursery to secondary to take part in physical activity for an hour a day. That could include walking and cycling to school, core PE and after-school activities. Up to the end of secondary, they should have a minimum of two hours of "quality" PE classes a week and be taught appropriate movement and behavioural skills for an active life.

Mr Beattie is prepared to risk the wrath of the PE lobby by challenging it to justify the focus on certificated courses in secondary, which are said to swallow time and resources and cut core PE for others, particularly in the upper school.

"The nature and scale of work that needs to be resourced to improve core physical education for primary and secondary pupils is such that it deserves a more thorough review. It is not clear that the current weaknesses can be dealt with and that the examples of good practice developed within the current resources are available," the task force states.

It accepts it could take 20 years to ensure that 80 per cent of children under 16 meet the basic minimum activity levels.

A study of teenage girls commissioned by the task force carries unpalatable messages for the profession. Girls are turned off activity as they move steadily through secondary and teachers and the courses they offer are partly to blame, although the teenage subculture is particularly influential. Classes in PE are no fun, there is no choice and they are for "sporty" people and not others, girls told researchers.

The task force accepts that problems begin earlier with one in three primary-aged girls and one in four boys failing to achieve minimum activity levels. The expressive arts 5-14 guidelines are not doing enough to ensure a quality PE experience, it argues.

Mr Beattie, whose report spans the age range up to the elderly, said that Scotland does not have the "political profile or the infrastructure" to make high levels of physical activity a reality. A more active population would bring massive health and sporting benefits.

Leader, page 18

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