Everything to play for
the future for school sport in Scottish secondaries is "bleak", according to its leaders.
The Scottish Schoolsport Federation claims that, despite nearly eight years of official programmes investing in school sport, Scotland is falling way behind England, which has developed an "extended curriculum" involving PE and out-of-hours school sport.
"Scotland is not even at the races compared with England," says Charles Raeburn, chair of SSF.
Its gloomy prediction comes in the week when Jack McConnell, the First Minister, again underlined the importance he attaches to sport to re-engage disaffected youngsters in education. He made this clear to an audience at a lecture given by Sir Tom Hunter on Tuesday (p3), and announced he would be meeting the 12 Premier League clubs on Monday to discuss how football could help.
The SSF is calling on the Scottish Executive to intervene and review the position in secondary schools. It is concerned at the failure to reward teachers and volunteers for their contribution.
Last month, the executive made considerable play of the success of its "active schools" programme which had seen the number of activity sessions rise by 17 per cent in primaries and secondaries last year, with primary schools alone recording a 53 per cent increase.
But Sportscotland, which oversees the programme, admitted to The TESS last week that there were no figures on whether the national target of pupils being physically active for 60 minutes a day was being achieved. Such a survey would not be cost-effective, it said.
The SSF admits that active school co-ordinators have made a difference in primaries, but this may be going to waste because their work is not being built on in secondaries: "The picture is much less encouraging in secondary schools, with fewer teachers volunteering, owing to curricular restructuring, an ageing profession, decreasing self-discipline in children and few parents volunteering to assist."
The federation points out that, despite these challenges, the number of days allocated for active school co-ordinators in secondaries has dropped from two to one, irrespective of whether the roll is 600 or 1,600. Even where co-ordinators are active, they are finding it difficult to engage inactive pupils and targeted groups such as girls.
"There is considerable official rhetoric which stresses the important role of sport in keeping pupils connected to their school, particularly as they get older," Mr Raeburn says. "This is an educational issue as much as it is about health and sport."