SCOTLAND is after all outstripping Ireland in something - in lack of fitness among primary children.
Concerns that one in four Dublin girls and one in seven boys between the ages of seven and nine are falling well behind expected fitness levels are familiar findings to Scots health researchers. The Scottish Health Survey, based on 1998 data, confirms an even more disturbing picture - one in three girls and one in five boys aged six and seven are not matching the recommended hour a day activity. Among 8-9s, it is a similar tale.
By the time girls reach 14 and 15, two-thirds fail to do any moderate physical exercise every day. The Scottish physical activity task force, chaired by John Beattie, the ex-rugby internationalist and broadcaster, expects ministers to back tough action.
The Irish study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, reveals that more affluent children are less active than disadvantaged classmates, spending even more time in front of computers and televisions.
Fewer than four out of 10 Dublin children exercised vigorously for 20 minutes or more three or more times a week, meeting the standard for good health. More than 40 per cent failed to take part in even moderate activity, such as walking and cycling.
Charlie Raeburn, chair of the Scottish physical education advisers network, said: "The Irish results are mirrored here and in primary we have to build on the work of the Active Primary Schools programme. That average of 52 minutes a week PE in primary should be expanded towards the recommended European minimum of two hours. But we have to recognise that schools cannot do everything. The family has a responsibility too."
* More pupils are doing more sports in Highland in the second full year of the sports co-ordinator scheme, which has seen pupil participation rise by 21 per cent.
Leader, page 12