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PE - Beautiful game reborn

Schools must become the bedrock of efforts to bring about a "renaissance" of Scottish football at local, national and international levels, a report from former First Minister Henry McLeish has recommended.

His review, the first part of two he has been commissioned to produce by the Scottish Football Association, calls for "physical literacy" to become a key component in schools, as important as the 3Rs. It must, it says, be the "big idea" to bring about a national revolution in health, fitness and sport.

He endorses East Renfrewshire Council's approach of "active primary PE" which focuses on physical literacy, beginning in P1 and going from "fun to skills".

Mr McLeish also wants to see at least 20 secondary schools developed as "football academies", with an integrated education and football curriculum aimed at producing "elite athletes". Another 5-10 schools would extend this to after-school provision.

Mr McLeish's report spares no blushes, accusing the football authorities and governments of presiding over decades of the "3Us" which have led to a lack of success on the football field - underachievement, underperformance and underinvestment.

The report suggests that nurturing the "gold dust" of talented youngsters at school and club levels will have spin-offs for general health and well- being. And, using the language familiar to curriculum reformers, it calls for the Government "to pursue in schools confidence-building in our young people linked to self-esteem, self-belief and self-worth".

Mr McLeish reserves particular scorn for the failure to open up school sports facilities to the community, describing it as a "chronic lack of access" outwith school hours and during holidays. Colleges, universities and private schools should also be urged to make their facilities available.

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