Relegation dogfight for sport

8th June 2001 at 01:00
THERE may be just two weeks left to save school sport, the annual conference of the Scottish Schoolsport Federation heard last week.

A post-McCrone squeeze on extracurricular activities is already evident in some school and local authority agreements and pressures on staff are likely to increase with the advent of an additional 35 hours for professional development, it was claimed.

Blair Young, federation secretary and a principal teacher of physical education in South Lanarkshire, said supporters of school sport had little time to influence how teachers' new 35-hour week would be divided. Many agreements are already in place and others have to be accepted before the end of the session.

"There is a fear that Son of PAT (planned activity time) could rear its head and reduce enthusiasm among teachers still further," Mr Young warned.

Some heads and authorities had already stipulated that staff must stay behind for meetings twice a week. These used to be held in school time, freeing time for voluntary duties.

There was resentment, Mr Young said, that teachers were being forced to stay on afte school, much as they were under the disliked PAT programmes. "People's enthusiasm will wane if we have this arrangement and there will be a knock-on effect on youngsters. They will see sport is not valued," Mr Young said.

He called for more imaginative and flexible use of time within the 35 hours. Sport should at least have a formal place, even half an hour at lunchtime for staff to help out with clubs.

It might be October before the full picture emerges across the country, Mr Young said. Staff might continue to run sports activities at the start of the session but quit under pressure after a few weeks.

Tony Gavin, head of St Margaret's Academy, Livingston - the host secondary - said: "I do not want to go around checking on everyone's hours, that is not professionalism. But I am expecting professional teachers to opt into activities that meet the objectives of the school development plan and that includes sport."

He appealed to the sports lobby to ensure its aims and programmes are firmly written into development plans, now they are enshrined in law under the recent education Act.

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