PE ace follows double fault

25th June 2004 at 01:00
It would appear that the Scottish Executive has at last served an ace following its double fault on physical education in schools.

Finally, the message has got home that the only sure way to improve the health of youngsters is by allocating more time to PE teachers in primary schools, who can lay the foundations for more participation in future years. They can do this if fitness elements and skill improvements are focused on in a structured manner.

Skill levels have largely been ignored in discussions about obesity and participation. Basic skills such as throwing or catching, hopping or rolling are sadly deficient in today's youngsters. Only if fitness elements and skill improvements are taught by PE teachers will the desired increase in participation come about.

The "double fault" that I referred to is the failed hope that sports co-ordinators or active school co-ordinators will increase participation.

There will eventually be a place for these "non-educational" driven schemes, but only when the professionals (PE teachers) have had their input into children's development.

It would appear that activity levels have not been increased by sports co-ordinatorsactive co-ordinators in the countries that Peter Peacock, the Education Minister, visited (TESS, April 23). In fact, Australia has a pupil obesity level second only to the United States, despite the public perception of its sporting excellence.

This certainly supports the opinion, and subsequently the evidence (following a survey of PE departments around the country), that I have for the schemes in this country which do not rely on the important relationship between pupil and teacher. This is because they are "sport"-led and not looked at from an educational viewpoint. That can only be done by increasing PE time for all pupils where relationships can be built and the benefits of an active lifestyle can be taught - compulsory time, not voluntary which these schemes rely on. The "Fat Controllers", or active schools co-ordinators, will find it difficult to encourage the obese children to take more exercise voluntarily, unless the foundations are laid.

These schemes actually detract from work that is done by many PE teachers.

Millions are being spent on schemes which lack any independent evidence of increased participation, and there has been no apparent investment in increasing PE staff or resources, up until now.

This is not just my view; it is shared by other professionals.

Among their concerns is that there is little for the co-ordinators to co-ordinate. There are representatives from five or six different schemes running around each other, wasting a lot of public money being ineffectual when the answer is very straightforward.

Ron Mackay Inverness

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