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School sport is back in shape

"SOLID and impressive" achievements in school sport signal a significant revival, David Crawley, head of the schools division at the Scottish Office, told 150 teachers and sports development officers at a conference in Livingston.

Sport was not free of problems but it now had a much stronger place in physical education and the out of school curriculum than 10 years ago, Mr Crawley said. He predicted: "If we have the structure for sport for all, we are much more likely to have the structures for excellence."

A number of initiatives, including the co-ordinator scheme and TOP Play and TOP Sport in primaries, were tackling the need to lift activity levels among the young. Education would always be constrained by resources but it was important to focus activities on priorities, Mr Crawley said.

Only 30 per cent of primary pupils are taught PE by specialists but Mr Crawley believes sport and games should be the core of the expressive arts curriculum, which absorbs 15 per cent of time in primary.

John Beattie, former Scottish rugby international and now a broadcaster, called for daily PE and aerobic exercise since he estimated 80 per cent of children were out of shape. "Every parent would agree there should be daily PE and it's the biggest joke it's not happening," Mr Beattie said. The Government gave the arts nine times the core funds sport received, he said. "Politicians have to be told that this is unacceptable."

He is also "uncomfortable" that Standard grade and Higher PE put an emphasis on sitting exams rather than practice.

A string of teachers spoke about the rift between staff who are paid for supported study and those who undertake extracurricular work voluntarily. There were also complaints that PE class sizes in secondary of up to 33 prohibit more aerobic activity.

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