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Pumping up the action without PE

Beautiful plans in filing cabinets make no sense, a speaker from the Dutch hockey association told the Scottish Sport Council's conference on youth sport (page two). The council will hope that A Youth Sport Strategy for Scotland, its latest attempt to enthuse young people, will not end up like many other grandiose schemes: admired but neglected and tidied away for posterity.

To its credit, the council opted for the inclusive approach by inviting key players in youth sport and education to craft its revised strategy. Producing strategies is the easy part; making them work around Scotland is rather more difficult.

There is little disagreement about the principal elements of the policy, which is subtitled "Pump Up the Volume". Indeed, there is a refreshing honesty about sections of the document. For example, it points out: "The problem of sport in schools would be much less obvious if, each year, 50 or 60 newly qualified teachers were given work within schools in Scotland."

With physical education in primaries suffering because councils have cut the number of visiting PE teachers, that is a salient observation in a Government-backed report. The council further observes that the number of advisers in physical education has been "reduced significantly" in the past five years, a process accelerated by local government reform.

But frankness about the pressures on schools, councils and sports bodies will not necessarily translate into action, as Sandy Watson, chief executive in Angus, told the conference. Without staffing and support few local schemes are going to take off in the present climate. John Major may will a national sporting reinvigoration, the impetus for the sports council's review, but as with the citizen's charter bluster is more evident than practice. Yet it is not all darkness. East Lothian is currently devising the most innovative sports development scheme, based around schools, in Scotland and probably in Britain. The council there has taken advantage of its compact size and favourable spending settlement to force through a policy.

If the Government is serious, it should back such practical initiatives as one way of ensuring that the latest plan is not lost in the filing cabinets.

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