School sport takes a back seat to the arts
Sam Galbraith, the Health and Sports Minister, announced on Tuesday an extra #163;8.1 million for Scottish sport over three years - but #163;6.6 million of that is to come from the sports lottery.
On a positive note, Mr Galbraith, who was visiting a Dundee primary, changed the direction of sports investment towards school and youth sport in a bid to raise the health and fitness of the country. All the extra cash in a six-point programme is aimed at increasing fitness levels among primary-aged pupils and encouraging sport in and out of school.
But the announcement was overshadowed by a wider dispute about funding.
Graeme Simmers, the Scottish Sports Council's chairman, agreed that the allocation appeared "unfair" compared with the arts. A similar picture emerges south of the border where sport won an extra #163;6 million against #163;120 million for the arts.
Mr Simmers said the sports council's #163;8. 9 million budget had been at a standstill for the past five years, adding pointedly: "I am hoping sport will move up the political agenda in the Scottish parliament."
In contrast, the Scottish Arts Council is to gain #163;7.7 million over three years as part of the #163;31 million windfall. Ministers argue it is catch-up cash.
On the sporting front, they want to spend an extra #163;300,000 next year, followed by #163;500,000 in 2000 and #163;700,000 in 2001 on their priorities in school and youth sport. At the same time, the New Opportunities Fund, the sixth good cause from the lottery, will slash sports lottery cash in Scotland by the same amount that is being spent on funding primary-aged physical activity and secondary school sport - #163;6.6 million.
The cash available to the sports lottery fund has gone down from #163;27 million to #163;21 million this year, although the arts fund is facing a similar drop.
Mr Simmers pointed out that fewer sports halls, pitches and other facilities would be supported because of the transfer of lottery cash. But he welcomed revenue funding for school sport.
Mr Galbraith emphasised the importance of investing in young people's physical activity, particularly in primary schools, but an internal sports council document has put the annual cost of employing activity co-ordinators at #163;11.5 million, well above the total amount currently planned for all sports schemes.
The council is keen to suggest the co-ordinators work with up to half a dozen primaries and link with the planned school sport co-ordinators in secondary. A council spokesman said: "There has been quite a dramatic reduction in PE specialists across primaries in the last four years and this would be an attempt to redress that."
Dundee has retained its visiting PE specialists but staff feel more could be done with an increase in trained staff. Jenny Dorward, a visiting specialist at Sidlaw View primary, works two days a fortnight with the whole school - 180 pupils a day - and teaches in another four primaries.
"There is definitely a need for more specialists in primary to give children a good grounding in basic skills. The skill-hungry years are P4 and P5 with pupils aged seven to 10. If we can get them then and get them physically competent, then they will not lose it," Mrs Dorward said.
Mr Galbraith revealed that a #163;450,000 pilot programme over three years will test the practicalities of daily PE in primary but Mrs Dorward and her colleague, Kate Balfour, believe curriculum pressures will make that difficult. "Daily PE would be good for health and fitness but it would be difficult to timetable for class teachers," Mrs Dorward said.
Miss Balfour said: "It would be brilliant but difficult to timetable in the gym for 15 minutes."
The sports council, however, says alternatives may include encouraging children to walk or cycle to school.
GALBRAITH'S GOALSWHERE THE CASH WILL GO
* #163;2.1 million from the lottery sports fund will expand the Top Play and Top Sport programmes to reach all primaries.
Resource packs, training and equipment for primary teachers.
* #163;4.5 million from the same fund will accelerate the appointment of sports co-ordinators in every secondary. Already 47 schools have piloted the scheme but it is taking longer to get off the ground than ministers expected.
* #163;300,000 to employ another two specialists on the Team Sport Scotland initiative, boosting coaching numbers and participation levels in two extra sports.
* #163;450,000 to pilot daily PE in primaries.
* #163;150,000 to allow teachers time off to organise competitive sport at national level, satisfying a long-held complaint of school sports organisations.
* #163;450, 000 to co-ordinate youth sport at local level. The aim eventually is to appoint youth sport managers across the country.
* #163;115,000 to identify successful approaches in developing clubs.
* #163;20,000 to introduce sports ambassadors to young people. Top personalities to enthuse pupils.