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Pommes frites

It looks like "le couch potato" might be the next English phrase to make it over the channel. According to a new survey of school sport in Europe, PE is viewed as a second-class subject in 34 per cent of countries, and 16 per cent have reduced time allocated to it.

The study, produced by Ken Hardman of Worcester University and commissioned for the European Parliament, found that many countries had failed to deliver on their pledges to expand school sport, despite rising obesity across the continent.

Scottish primary and secondary schools are expected to deliver two hours of PE a week, but a report by the Scottish Executive last year found that only 7 per cent of pupils in secondary schools and 5 per cent in primary were receiving this.

According to the study, some English schools are only doing half an hour of sport a week, the lowest in Europe. Germany, France and Italy have all decreased school PE provision since 1999.

PE lessons are often first to be cut if the timetable becomes overloaded and if they survive, they tend to be dominated by competitive sports and track and field, something Professor Hardman believes could account for the high drop-out rates at secondary level. Games accounted for 40 per cent of school sport time, while dance and swimming were squeezed out.

"The sports on offer don't connect with pupils' lives and as a result they vote with their feet," said Professor Hardman.

He suggests replacing games with sports that appeal to the "culture of young people" such as skateboarding and street dance.

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