Get active and fight the flab
The latest opinion poll, conducted for The TES among more than 700 parents by FDS International, confirms the trends. Nearly half of all children in England and Wales have unhealthy diets, dominated by calorie-laden snacks such as crisps, fizzy drinks and sweets.
The problem may be even worse, however, since there was some evidence that parents are deluding themselves about how fit and active their offspring are.
Six out of 10 of those who said their children did not spend any time being physically active at weekends nevertheless considered them to be active. On average, parents reported that their children spent twice as much time at weekends watching television and sitting at their computers (nine hours) as they did on physical activity (four hours).
Peter Peacock, Education Minister, who has still to receive the report from the physical activity task force, investigated Australia's approach to school sport and physical activity during his visit to the southern hemisphere during the Easter break (page four).
Despite the country's sporting prowess, Mr Peacock was told that its successes were not reflected in schools. The national drive to produce top-flight sportsmen and women did not boost participation among pupils, he heard.
This is despite the fact that designated times are set aside for sport in primary and secondary schools: in New South Wales, there is a compulsory hour a week in primaries and a requirement of 80-120 minutes in secondaries.
Mr Peacock has let it be known that there is a dilemma between this compulsory approach and the policy of encouraging schools to introduce flexibility into the curriculum. Despite what he had seen in Australia, the minister said: "We have to decide what is best for Scotland."
Responding to The TESTES Scotland campaign, one of the UK's leading experts has called on all schools to develop a physical activity policy.
Neil Armstrong, director of the children's health and exercise research centre at Exeter University, said this should involve the creation of partnerships with the community and with other schools.
In Scotland, the Executive has made pound;24 million available for schools to appoint 600 active school co-ordinators.
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