Jump into exercise

29th July 2011 at 01:00
Fitting in two hours of PE is easy when `you just decide you're doing it', the Active Nation winner tells Henry Hepburn

For years, intermittent news stories have bemoaned most schools' inability to meet the national target of two hours' physical activity for all pupils.

It is a different story at South Lanarkshire's Lanark Primary, where children get well in excess of two hours a week - but there is no great secret to its success.

"You just decide you're doing it," says headteacher Margaret Scott, whose school won the Active Nation category at this year's Scottish Education Awards.

The can-do approach to physical activity involves not only teaching staff, who are each responsible for an hour a week, but others, too: the janitor takes football and rugby; a retired principal teacher runs gardening lessons, which often appeal to pupils who are not keen on sport.

Fitness has improved by reaching the two-hour target, as has flexibility and stamina, and few children ever opt out of PE. Two of the most popular activities are hula-hooping in the morning - staff find pupils more alert after exercise - and speed-stacking. The latter, a sport that emerged in California about 20 years ago, involves placing plastic cups on top of each other in specific sequences at prodigious speeds.

Often, after an introduction from a visiting volunteer, children go on to prolong the buzz of a new activity at a club outwith school. Pupils respond well to the "relaxed and down-to-earth" approach and different ideas of visitors, says Mrs Scott.

Lanark Primary has two advantages: firstly, class teacher Caroline Mulvey, an enthusiastic and skilled teacher who specialises in expressive arts, PE and physical activities; secondly, extensive woodland that includes an orienteering trail. But to make the most of such resources, a school must rank physical activity highly.

As the awards judges observed of Lanark Primary: "Pupils, teachers, non- teaching staff, partners and practitioners all firmly believe that being physically and mentally active is the key to learning and life."

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