PE review off to flying start

19th March 2004 at 00:00
Primary pupils in Clackmannanshire will be jumping to it for up to 90 minutes a week from August.

The authority has nipped in ahead of the national review of physical education and school sport to announce that it is setting up a team of 10 PE specialists to work across all its primaries.

It will use the extra time created by cuts in primary class contact hours to make space for more activity. At present, only four out of 10 primary pupils have contact with a PE specialist, for 30 minutes a fortnight. Only one specialist is employed, working in eight of the authority's 19 primaries.

Brian Fearon, convener of the learning and leisure committee, said that the current provision was by no means the worst. Some authorities had none.

Mr Fearon said: "As a result of the post-McCrone agreement, we now have a fantastic opportunity to dramatically increase our current PE provision in our primary schools. Part of the agreement was to reduce the teachers'

class contact time.

"Following discussions with primary headteachers and class teachers we came up with an innovative solution to manage this with an overall agreement to improve PE provision by appointing a team of PE specialists."

Sandy Wilson, head of education and lifelong learning, said the new programme may include co-ordination and movement activities for P1-P3, specific skills in team games, swimming and racket sports for P4-P5 and progression into festivals, competitions and outdoor activities for those in the senior years.

Mr Wilson said the benefits go beyond acquiring skills and fitness.

"Children's gains in confidence and self-esteem will lead to improved learning. Research also supports the view that an increase in the level of physical activity can also benefit behaviour," he said.

Nationally, ministers will shortly consider the findings of the PE and sport review which is being led by Michael O'Neill, education director in North Lanarkshire. But it is unlikely to stipulate that all schools should be obliged to provide at least two hours of quality PE a week - the recommendation from Sportscotland.

Ministers believe schools and authorities should be free to plan their programmes within a broad national framework. Clackmannanshire will consider seconding existing primary staff and setting up job shares and part-time posts.

Some within the profession consider that authorities will struggle to fill PE and activity vacancies because of a looming national shortage of trained staff.

Intakes to PE courses will have to rise, they suggest.

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