Limited time and resources pose difficulties for ensuring all pupils have at least two hours of physical education a week, as the Education Minister insists. So how do the North Lanarkshire sports comprehensives do it? Douglas Blane reports
North Lanarkshire's sports comprehensives - Braidhurst High in Motherwell, St Margaret's High in Airdrie and St Maurice's High in Cumbernauld - were launched in 2002 as a three-year pilot project, with additional annual funding of Pounds 100,000 for each school.
While being given considerable freedom in developing their own programmes for widening access to and increasing physical activities, the schools made a number of shared commitments, including to:
* offer all pupils core PE,
* increase the range of activities on offer to pupils,
* promote health initiatives,
* offer certificate programmes in S3 to S6,
* introduce the Community Sport Leaders award,
* support the delivery of PE in associated primaries,
* support the development of primary resources, and
* co-ordinate local sport festivals.
While still having a year to run, the programme has already been judged a success, says the authority's physical education adviser, John French. "So, from August 2005, the necessary funding will be included in North Lanarkshire's budget for each year," he says.
Each sports comprehensive has been provided with improved facilities, funded by a grant from the New Opportunities for PE and Sport, whose objectives - wider access, greater collaboration, social inclusion - were closely aligned to North Lanarkshire's own.
"St Maurice's got a new sports centre, St Margaret's a new synthetic playing field and enlarged games hall, and Braidhurst had all their facilities upgraded," says NOPES co-ordinator Jim Lay.
"When we talk to people about sports comprehensives, they often think it's about pushing talented kids on, but it's not," says Mr Lay, whose own experience of teaching PE was gained in places as diverse as Castlemilk and Possilpark in Glasgow and Cairo.
"What we are doing in North Lanarkshire is using the medium of physical activities to help every subject in a school. The sports comprehensives are enhanced comprehensives rather than sports colleges. It is all about giving a boost to the comprehensive system, with the focus on whole school development, through a medium that each school sees as its strength."