Fit pupils aim of leaner timetable

26th June 1998 at 01:00
Welsh lobbyists have persuaded the Government to keep PE in the primary curriculum. Iola Smith and Biddy Passmore reports.

The slimmed-down curriculum in Welsh primary schools must not allow children to get fat, Peter Hain, Welsh education minister has decided.

He has announced that Welsh primary school children will continue to be taught running, throwing and jumping when the curriculum is introduced in September.

Earlier proposals for reducing the curriculum to leave more time for the three Rs would have left some aspects of PE to the discretion of teachers.

But vigorous protests have persuaded the Government to keep these elements compulsory.

Ossie Wheatley, chairman of the Sports Council for Wales, wrote to Welsh Secretary Ron Davies arguing that a reduction in PE lessons would have a detrimental effect on pupils' health and, in the long term, on Wales's international sporting performance. His protests fell on fertile ground. "I am determined that the youngsters currently going through our primary schools should not become the next generation of couch potatoes," Mr Hain said last week. "I want Wales to produce a nation of active, fit youngsters who will become top sportsmen and women."

Mr Wheatley said this week that he was pleased with the Government's change of mind, pointing out that it was essential to instil the habit of physical activity in a population with a high incidence of heart and other diseases associated with heavy industrial labour.

But he added that the real need was for more in-service training in schools. "PE is the worst taught subject in the curriculum," he said. A recent report by Her Majesty's Inspectors had found that 50 per cent of the PE lessons in Welsh primary schools were either unsatisfactory or poor.

* It is understood that both PE and music will receive special protection under the guidance for English primary schools, again after vigorous lobbying.

Education Secretary David Blunkett has taken a particular interest in music, thanks in part to a TES campaign.

The guidance, set to be published next week, was originally expected around Easter. It will help primary schools decide what is essential in, say, history or geography, if they choose to slim down their curriculum.

The long delay - caused mainly by the lobbying - has left schools with little time to prepare next year's teaching programme

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