PE report's lack of fitness

19th April 2013 at 01:00

As much as I look forward to reading articles on physical education in Scotland, having a strong passion personally and professionally for promoting the benefits of quality PE, I was very disappointed to find your article "Scots among the frontrunners on PE targets" frustratingly inaccurate.

First, the title indicates that the report assessed levels of PE - physical education. Yet the brief at the start of the article refers to "physical activity in schools". The news piece then shifts between references to PE, physical activity, active schools, extra-curricular activity, "gym" - even the interruption of lessons to "undertake motor activities".

This article just exacerbates the misconceptions held by teachers, heads, coaches and others who may or may not be directly involved in the delivery or policy of physical education, physical activity and sport - these three concepts are not and should not be interchangeable. There will, almost certainly, be a crossover of skills and knowledge and understanding between the three, but they are different.

I have no doubt that the author of the article was simply misinformed by the research - a report by Eurydice - which may itself have used misleading language. However, I would expect that in a Scottish education magazine which prides itself on providing accurate news and information to teachers and educators in Scotland, the articles themselves are of current thinking.

Gone are the days when "drillies" sent pupils out running for the sake of running (my father was one of them) and so should be the days of teachers - particularly in primary - who think that happy, busy, good (or indeed to "relax for a while", as quoted in the article) is an effective approach to a quality physical education.

I have witnessed teachers (primary again) who have sat and watched children running around a playground while they enjoy a rare moment of sunshine or chat with the learning assistant during their "PE slot" and these schools claim to be delivering their two hours' quality PE as required. This is not physical education. It is profoundly unhelpful to encourage such thinking, and I had thought that bodies such as the Developmental Physical Education Group (DPEG) had been more successful in raising awareness of such misconceptions. Unfortunately not, it would seem.

I have learned a great deal from the research into primary and early years PE in Scotland over the past decade and would hope that schools finding themselves lacking in this area would provide appropriate professional development for staff responsible for teaching PE for any amount of time, regardless of access to a visiting specialist.

Might I add that Curriculum for Excellence states that "the Scottish government expects schools to continue to work towards the provision of at least two hours of good-quality physical education for every child, every week" - this is in addition to any physical activity and sport that is offered to students. These are not interchangeable.

Elise Guthrie Stirling, primary teacher and PE specialist, Falkirk.

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