Badminton test for PE halls
The national sports agency wants an end to school gyms doubling as dining areas. It is warning the Scottish Executive and education authorities that the expansion of physical education will not be achieved unless there is investment in school sports facilities - a hall for every primary that accommodates two badminton courts should be the starting point.
Launching a new guide on the design of sports facilities in primary schools, Sportscotland says the pressure is mounting. The minimum of two hours of PE per week announced by the Education Minister last month "will in many schools have implications for the level of sports facilities required", the agency says.
"The expansion of the active schools programme also means there are increasing demands on facilities." This strategy has a target for every child to take at least an hour of moderate physical activity on five or more days a week.
The new guidance, which complements similar advice for designing sports facilities in secondary schools issued last year, sets out how to calculate PE requirements for a range of school size and how to ensure facilities can be used by the community at large.
Sportscotland is particularly keen that schools' needs are planned as part of a wider strategy for all sports facilities in the area. Alastair Dempster, chairman of Sportscotland, comments: "Scotland's pressing need for indoor sports halls would be halved if all current school facilities were available for community use during weekday evenings, weekends and school holidays."
But, Mr Dempster said, the potential of schools to contribute to community sports facilities "is not being fully realised".
While the headline emphasis in the Executive's response to the PE review was on the recruitment of another 400 PE specialists to work in primaries over three years, many primary heads believe the stumbling block is physical rather than physical education.
Brian Toner, head of St John's primary in Perth, wrote in his regular TES Scotland column last week: "For many primaries, the most serious barrier to effective PE teaching is the shared hall.
"By 11am, dinner arrangements take over so the afternoon begins with a damp floor and the lingering smell of cabbage. A forgotten chip lurks in a corner, hoping to propel a gymnast on to her back.
"Not the most inviting setting for physical exercise. Not the best use of space either. Gym hall-cum-dining areas have been included in new schools right up until the present, despite concerns about PE and its facilities."
Mr Toner said the PE review group made reference to "appropriate facilities" and referred to Sportscotland guidance. But "a strong statement condemning dual-purpose halls would have served primaries better".
The Sportscotland guidance acknowledges that "well-designed facilities are not, of course, the only factor in ensuring quality PE for our children.
But they are essential if we are to allow teachers and their pupils to reach their full potential."
It recommends that a two-court hall should be the minimum size for indoor activities to accommodate the differing needs of older and younger pupils.
But a greater range of activities and wider adult use would require a three-court hall, or larger.
Other advice includes:
* Under-floor heating, since pupils often sit on the floor during PE.
* A temperature of 16-20 degrees.
* Variety of colours.
* An integrated music system set in a recess in the hall wall.
* Around 15 per cent of floor areas should be used as storage for sports equipment.
* Community demand may require a four-court hall.
Sportscotland's next set of guidance, on school playing fields, should be issued later this year.
The documents on designing primary and secondary sports facilities can be found at www.sportscotland.org.uk.