PE guidance under fire

16th May 2008 at 01:00
Failure to set a deadline could push physical education target to the back of the queue
Failure to set a deadline could push physical education target to the back of the queue

New government guidelines that every child receive a minimum of two hours of PE per week have come under fire for their failure to set a deadline for implementation. As with the SNP administration's class-size target, schools have been told to "work towards" the objective.

With local authorities warning last month that they would be unable to meet the two-hour per week target set by the previous Scottish Executive, opposition MSPs have cast doubt over the strength of the Government's commitment.

Michael O'Neill, the former director of education at North Lanarkshire Council who chaired the national PE review, said: "If there is no deadline, it becomes a non-target and goes to the back of the queue."

The majority of secondaries would have been able to provide two hours by August this year, if they had been asked, he claimed.

Primaries might find it harder, he conceded, but they should explore the "potential of the puddle" and use outdoor spaces more.

Ken Macintosh, Labour's schools spokesman, pointed to the SNP's manifesto, which stated: "To help Scottish children develop the habit of physical fitness, we will ensure that every pupil has two hours of quality PE each week, delivered by specialist PE teachers."

Maureen Watt, the Schools Minister, insisted schools move towards the target "as quickly as possible".

But Tom Burnett, president of the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland, said primaries faced timetabling and building capacity barriers.

Moira Rennie, the headteacher of Cornton Primary, near Stirling, where the draft outcomes on health and wellbeing for A Curriculum for Excellence were launched by Ms Watt, said: "We manage to hit the target because we are a small school (with eight classes and around 200 pupils). But if you have 15 classes, that means 30 hours of PE. The children are not in school for 30 hours, it would be impossible."

Along with physical education, physical activity and sport, the latest ACfE draft outcomes for health and wellbeing cover the school environment, pupils' emotional wellbeing, food and health, substance misuse and sexual health and relationships. Teachers will be expected to model healthy behaviour.

Overall, the new curriculum puts a stronger emphasis on outside specialists working in partnership with schools to deliver aspects of sex and drugs education, a move likely to be welcomed by teachers.

Parents will be encouraged to play a bigger part in drugs education, with every household in Scotland being sent a parents' guide on substance misuse.

As part of the Government's drive to cut child obesity, it is taking sweets and fatty food off the menu in schools from August.

New regulations, introduced by the previous Executive and passed in Parliament this week, require primaries to provide free drinking water to pupils throughout the day and limit deep-fried food to three items each week, with chips served only as part of a nutritious meal.

Leader 24.

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