30th May 2008 at 01:00
It was a typical exchange on education at Holyrood
It was a typical exchange on education at Holyrood. Opposition MSPs were trying to pin the Government down to dates. When would they deliver their class-size cuts? When would every child receive two hours of PE per week? The Government resisted.

And then, Independent MSP Margo MacDonald threatened to hit the Education Secretary, Fiona Hyslop, with a stick.

Ms MacDonald, a former PE teacher who suffers from Parkinson's Disease, had just launched into a passionate diatribe about the importance of children forming the habit of daily exercise, when first one of her walking sticks clattered to the ground, followed by the other. At this point, she commented: "That was the one I was going to use on the Minister."

It is unlikely Ms MacDonald was alone in her desire to launch more than a verbal attack during the education-themed question and answer session.

Ross Finnie, on the Liberal Democrats' benches, was clearly frustrated by the response from Maureen Watt, Minister for Schools and Skills, that schools were expected to "work towards" two hours of good quality PE. He pointed out that by asking when the Government expected to meet its commitment, he had been looking for "a date to be attached to the answer". He never did get one.

Then it was the turn of Labour's education spokeswoman, Rhona Brankin. She had "had enough of this Government's refusal to answer questions", she said, before launching into hers, which was: "Will the promised two hours' quality PE be delivered by specialists - yes or no?"

Because just 211 specialists had been trained over the past three years by Labour, it was "challenging", Ms Hyslop replied.

However, she was "very pleased" that 150 PE specialists were due to graduate this year and that 3,000 primary teachers would receive PE training between August and December.

But would the PE graduates get jobs? asked the Lib Dems' Hugh O'Donnell. The local authorities were the employers, Ms Hyslop replied.

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