Scots among the frontrunners on PE targets

Physical activity in schools leaves other European nations lagging behind

It is generally accepted that the UK is the fat man of Europe, with childhood obesity statistics worse in Scotland than England. But Scottish children are expected to spend more time in PE than those in most other European countries, a new report has found.

The recommended minimum taught time for PE per year in Scotland is 76 hours, which means students are expected to do more sport than their peers living in the oft-praised Finland, Sweden and Norway.

The report by Eurydice - which provides information on European education systems - also highlights the Scottish government's Active Schools programme, which is run by sportscotland, and aims to strengthen extra-curricular activity.

However, Scottish government statistics show that while there has been huge progress, not all schools are actually delivering its two hours per week PE target. The government's Healthy Living survey published last summer suggested that 84 per cent of primary schools were delivering two hours of PE, compared with 3 per cent in 2004-05.

Meanwhile, 92 per cent of S1 to S4 pupils in secondary schools were getting two periods of gym per week, it reported - a 46 per cent increase on eight years ago. The Scottish government has pledged that all S1-4 children will reach the goal by next year.

There were big differences between countries when it came to time spent in PE, the Eurydice report, Physical Education and Sport at School in Europe, said.

France was the frontrunner at primary and secondary levels, with children spending at least 108 hours in PE in primary, compared with a recommended minimum in Ireland of 37 hours. At secondary, figures ranged from 24-35 hours in Spain, Malta and Turkey, to 102-108 hours in France and Austria.

Compared with other subjects, the time allocated to PE - typically between 50 and 80 hours per year - was relatively low, the report said.

"In general, it corresponds to less than 10 per cent of total taught time, or around half the time devoted to mathematics," it stated.

Some countries had interesting schemes for extending physical activity outside PE, during breaks in lessons, or on the way to school. In Denmark morning running before school was common and a new concept called 'run and read' had been developed in which teachers ran with pupils for approximately 20 minutes, and then read together for roughly the same time.

In Slovenia, meanwhile, recommendations on minuta za zdravje ("a minute for health") had been published, encouraging all teachers to interrupt lessons occasionally, clear the air and suggest that their pupils undertake motor activities and relax for a while.

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