Higher plan has its head in the clouds

15th August 2008 at 01:00

According to the aims of the Climbing Higher strategy, the attainment of physical literacy should be equal to reading and writing. The idealism of this well-meaning document is staggering.

Within 20 years, the strategy aims to make regular exercise a part of life from the cradle to the grave. In this way, a generation of healthier citizens and sporting heroes will be created in Wales.

But surely a reality check is needed? It seems 60 minutes of exercise five times a week - the strategy's target for schoolchildren - is a little ambitious.

The authors of the audit committee's report are right - only a radical overhaul of society will bring about this change. But almost four years after the action plan was devised, little has been done to make it happen. Meanwhile, we are increasingly becoming a nation of extremes.

Nicole Cooke, the winner of Wales's first Olympic gold medal for 36 years this week, cycled to and from school in all weathers. But Chris Davies, her former headteacher, is cynical about whether his current pupils will see the merits of such dedicated cycling to the classroom. Fear of traffic, he says, is the main obstacle.

Climbing Higher advocates that walking and cycling should become part of everyday life. But even the promoters of car-free transport to school are secretly worrying about the practicalities of their own teaching.

Then we have the sad story of 15-year-old Georgia Davis, who cites comfort eating as the main reason for her 33-stone body weight. The Aberdare teenager, who is now in an American fat camp to exercise and lose weight, has been labelled the heaviest teenager in Britain. But will she change her ways when she comes back home?

Initiatives in England to tackle healthy living - as well as literacy and numeracy - are working better because they are co-ordinated and funded properly from the top. There are schools and local authorities initiating some great schemes in Wales, including safe walking and cycling. But until we have national, rather than just local, examples of good practice, fundamental change remains a distant dream.

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