Renewed drive to hit two-hour target in PE

6th April 2012 at 01:00
All S1-4 pupils will reach goal by 2014, ministers pledge

A fresh drive has been launched to provide pupils with at least two hours of PE a week - nearly a decade after a government task force first called for it to be made a national target.

The Scottish government has promised that all S1-4 pupils will meet the target by 2014, and has given local authorities another pound;3.4 million to achieve it.

A further pound;2.4 million package of national developments will be led by Education Scotland in partnership with sportscotland.

Sports minister Shona Robison said the announcement last week was "yet another significant milestone on the journey towards delivering a tangible and enduring legacy for the 2014 Commonwealth Games".

The extra funding would "allow local authorities to give a final push to what has been a longstanding ambition", according to Isabel Hutton, education spokeswoman for local authorities umbrella group Cosla.

All primary and secondary schools are being asked about the two-hour commitment as part of the government's Healthy Living Survey; data will be published in June 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Scottish Conservative education spokeswoman Liz Smith said: "In 2007 the SNP promised that they would deliver two hours of PE per week for every pupil, no matter whether they were in primary or secondary school.

"This announcement appears to change the goalposts somewhat, and one has to ask why it has taken the prospect of the Commonwealth Games to bring a sense of urgency from SNP ministers."

Labour's learning spokesman, Neil Findlay, accused the government of "watering down" its promise for secondary schools. He questioned whether pupils would continue to receive two hours' quality PE delivered by specialist PE teachers, and noted that the commitment did not cover S5-6 pupils.

He added: "While the additional funding is of course welcome, it highlights that the pledge was underfunded all along, and now the SNP is raiding the budgets of sportscotland and Education Scotland to plug the funding gap it created."

Bob Foley, head of PE at Midlothian's Newbattle Community High, was "delighted" to hear of the government's promise and that all schools would be canvassed for the Healthy Living Survey.

He believes the survey will show what action needs to be taken, but added that the two-hour target would be more achievable if extra cash and more continuing professional development were given to primary schools.

School Leaders Scotland general secretary Ken Cunningham said it was difficult squeezing more PE into tight timetables, and some schools' timetabling models made it even trickier.

Ann Ballinger, general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association, pointed out that to achieve two hours of PE per week, pupils would have to be allocated two blocks of two 50-minute periods or three 50-minute periods in one block. Changing took up 15-20 minutes at either end of a 50-minute period, leaving only 30 minutes of PE.

henry.hepburn@tess.co.uk

DECADE-LONG SAGA

In 2003 a national Physical Activity Task Force, chaired by broadcaster and former Scotland rugby international John Beattie, called for two hours of high-quality PE a week for pupils. That target featured in the SNP's manifesto as it came to power in 2007.

A freedom of information request by the Scottish Conservatives in 2009 found that, across 29 of Scotland's 32 local authorities, the target was being met in only 18 per cent of secondaries and 32 per cent of primaries.

In late 2010, Scottish government figures suggested 55 per cent of primary schools offered two hours of PE a week, with 60 per cent of secondaries hitting the target; 85 per cent of secondaries achieved it with all S1-S4 pupils; only three councils enabled all primary pupils to do two hours.

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