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Island kids can't stay the distance

SIGNIFICANT numbers of first and second-year pupils at the Nicolson Institute in Stornoway are too busy studying to take part in the physical activities that may improve their long-term health, a study by the PE and maths departments has found.

Improved diets and activity levels have since been pushed to the forefront of the new community school (NCS) initiative in the Western Isles following concerns raised by the survey, conducted last year, councillors heard this week.

The Nicolson study will chime with findings elsewhere. Only around half the pupils involved can run three miles and one in five admits to being unfit.

One in three pupils in S6 accepts that they are unfit.

Many say they have no interest in sport and studies get in the way as pupils rise through the school. Few see facilities as a problem, some see transport as a difficulty and some home circumstances.

A report on the new community school initiative across the authority maintains that health has been "a real strength" of the early phases with action on school vending machines, lunches, fruit and water as well as extracurricular activities.

But patterns vary. The Loch School offers a different activity every evening while others offer virtually nothing.

Since the report, the Nicolson has seen a "measurable increase" in fitness activities. "This is certainly the view of the pupils who were fulsome in their praise of changes which have accompanied NCS designation," officials report.

They believe much has been achieved in a short time but admit that it may be "timely for the project to become more proactive in its relationships with schools and take a stronger lead in driving the inclusion agenda".

The transition from primary to secondary and from 5-14 schools to S3, for example, is "not universally even".

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