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No more excuses: school makes Standard grade PE compulsory

Move to certificated course prompted by struggle to meet national target of two hours of physical education per week

Move to certificated course prompted by struggle to meet national target of two hours of physical education per week

A west Lothian school has made Standard grade physical education compulsory in an attempt to meet a challenging national PE target.

All 164 S2 pupils at Broxburn Academy - where Standard grades are taken over three years - have this year begun working towards the certificated level, and will do no non-certificated PE.

The national target of two hours' high quality PE per pupil per week has long been a headache for schools and local authorities. Core PE was allocated two standard 50-minute periods at Broxburn Academy, and staff could find no scope for more.

But by making Standard grade PE compulsory, S2 pupils now have a two- period block - one hour and 40 minutes - for practical activities, and a separate 50 minutes for theory. The school's understanding is that two hours spent meeting the national target can include elements of health and well-being and theory, as well as physical activity.

Headteacher Peter Reid said the move had received unqualified backing from staff, pupils and parents.

Senior pupils who had not enjoyed PE when younger, and admitted to handing in spurious sick notes, were among the enthusiasts. S5's Monica Gopal said she would have participated a lot more, had PE been certificated.

The move will not reduce choice: pupils now take nine Standard grades, rather than eight, and Mr Reid hopes their involvement with the successful PE department will improve overall attainment.

Staff at the 904-pupil school also believe it will become easier to fulfil health and well-being outcomes and experiences in Curriculum for Excellence.

The PE department has taken on the extra burden - just under half of a similar-sized S2 cohort took the Standard grade last year - with the same six members of full-time staff. The extra strain on changing rooms has been eased with funding from West Lothian Council for more pegs and benches.

Doug Folan, chairman of the Association for Physical Education Scotland, was encouraged by the determination of Broxburn Academy to find an imaginative solution to meeting the two-hour target.

But he did not believe it had done so, unless the theory period included a physical element, as the national target demanded two hours of physical activity. Another solution to the two-hour conundrum, he suggested, could be to deliver PE within a theme involving several subjects.

John Beattie, who chaired the physical activity taskforce which, in 2002, outlined a 20-year plan to improve the nation's health, said the Broxburn Academy move was "great news", although he stressed that the national target demanded two hours of physical activity.

Smaller councils such as West Lothian had always been innovative with PE, but the former Scotland rugby international - who presents BBC Radio Scotland's Sports Weekly programme - warned it would require similar commitment from large authorities such as Glasgow and Edinburgh to meet the target.

Eileen Prior, executive director of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, said most parents would welcome Broxburn Academy's move to get children more physically active. But a small minority - those whose children were most vehement about their dislike of PE - would have concerns.

henry.hepburn@tes.co.uk.

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