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Schools may be set goals for sport

Targets will step out of the classroom and into the playground, pool andgym, reports David Henderson.

Schools should set targets for out-of-school activities just as they do for classroom work, Jack McConnell, Education Minister, last week told an education and sport seminar in Motherwell.

Mr McConnell also revealed plans to establish a new forum to co-ordinate action on school sport and pledged to tackle the sharp decline in swimming sessions.

He "could not agree more" with the suggestion that schools needed targets for sport, although he was mindful not to step on the toes of Allan Wilson, Sport and Culture Minister.

Addressing the Sportscotland-led conference, Mr McConnell said: "Schools and local authorities will be letting down kids if they only focus on attendance and exam achievement. Schools are about much more than that. It's not just about technical skills and exam passes - our schools have to be about creating good citizens who can play a part in the modern world."

Later, Donald Matheson, past president of the Headteachers' Association of Scotland, urged Mr McConnell to persuade HM Inspectorate to amend its views on how schools are assessed. "If we are going to encourage people to get involved in this part of school life, we have got to incorporate this into evaluation measures," Mr Matheson said.

Michael O'Neill, director of education in North Lanarkshire, backed the plan "as long as the targets are for the participation and involvement of more young people". But schools and local authorities should be able to set their own targets in terms of their areas. Targets would emphasise that sport, arts and enterprise activities were "not peripheral" but central to delivring national priorities.

Mr O'Neill said activities that promoted self-belief and achievement in a wider sense would wash back into the academic curriculum.

Mr McConnell revealed that the Executive was currently developing plans to drive forward sport, health and education links through a new forum. South of the border, a minister chairs an umbrella school sport group to oversee massive lottery spending on an area prioritised by Tony Blair. North of the border, the group will take a broader view.

School sport and outdoor education in Scotland will benefit by pound;87 million from the next phase of the New Opportunities Fund programmes - the largest ever cash injection for school and youth sport.

Mr McConnell made it clear the Executive's school rebuilding programme should improve sports facilities. Part of the lottery windfall will also be directed at creating top-class halls, pools and pitches.

"It's not acceptable in this day and age that we have got kids travelling half a mile from school to playing-fields because they have got so many huts in the playground they can't access facilities close to their classrooms. There is no point in having a 40-minute period if kids spend 20 minutes trying to get through two sets of traffic lights to get to the playing fields," he stated.

Mr McConnell also promised action on swimming after Paul Bush, chief executive of Scottish Swimming, pointed out that more than half of local authorities do not provide school swimming sessions and "less than 50 per cent of the 50 per cent provide it in P4 and P5".

Mr McConnell found the statistics "particularly disturbing" and said he learnt to swim because of the small school pool in Arran.

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