PE goal-posts move

20th June 2008 at 01:00
The drive to give pupils at least two hours of physical education every week now appears to have veered off track, as it emerged that local authorities are being encouraged by their own leaders to ditch the target
The drive to give pupils at least two hours of physical education every week now appears to have veered off track, as it emerged that local authorities are being encouraged by their own leaders to ditch the target.

A letter from Rory Mair, chief executive of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, which has been passed to The TESS, states: "We do not see the benefit of measuring specific targets when the actual thing we should be measuring is whether children are getting fitter and healthier."

Mr Mair concludes, in effect, that the PE "input" target should be replaced by one of the 15 "national indicators of success", agreed as part of the concordat deal between central and local government. This aims to reduce "the increase in the number of young people with an unhealthy body mass index". It would involve a move away from input targets, "measuring what is important rather than what is just easy to measure", Mr Mair states.

It also seems clear that education chiefs have been given the nod to interpret the PE target very broadly. In one of a series of letters sent to Labour MSPs by senior council officials, also seen by The TESS, Ian Fraser, director of education in Inverclyde, wrote: "My understanding is that it is now two hours of quality PE over the child or young person's day and not specifically within teaching time.

"My further understanding is that this need not be delivered by qualified PE teachers but could, for example, be delivered by community coaches or active schools personnel".

Another letter, from Gordon McKinlay, acting education manager in Renfrewshire, noted that "the definition of PE is open to dispute", and he referred to "quality physical activity" as opposed to physical education.

Dumfries and Galloway says it will encourage "outdoor activities and supplement (gym) hall times with PE activities in the classroom".

The policy first began to unravel when Maureen Watt, the Schools Minister, went on radio last month and suggested that "good physical exercise" during the school day, not just in allocated teaching time, would meet the commitment and that this could include "walking to school".

Ms Watt also ditched the pledge to use specialist teachers. Fife revealed that it has 15 specialist PE teachers to serve 143 primary schools; if it was to meet the PE target in full, it would require around 110.

In a little-noticed parliamentary answer last October, Ms Watt gave an undertaking that local authorities were "working towards a target of two hours of good quality physical education for each child every week by the end of the school year 2007-08". With just one week of the school session left, it now seems clear that certainty was misplaced.

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