Testing won't get them off the couch

23rd January 2004 at 00:00
Last week, Glasgow University medical researchers warned that many three-year-olds are only half as active as they should be and are already storing up problems before they reach primary. It is apparently too easy to flop in front of the television, watching endless cartoons. This week, many 11-year-olds in Highland primaries are found to share similar characteristics.

Does testing fitness actually help? Indeed it could be a turn-off. It may be embarrassing and demeaning for some, the very ones who are most at risk.

Teachers question such testing when applied to language and maths if there is no immediate link to progression and improvement and similar arguments apply to fitness.

At least Highland is linking testing with promotion, which it needs to do.

Structures have to be in place to make activity more attractive. Teachers and others have to sell a healthy lifestyle to young people but too often the leaders, clubs and facilities are not there or not up to standard. We are still weak on basic infrastructure and opportunities for young people as our primary headteacher columnist, Brian Toner, makes clear on the opposite page.

An extra factor is teenage rebellion. Young people want to be more included and consulted as they grow older. Lifestyle and choices are what it is all about, especially for girls. Diet, health and fitness are part of the same image package but persuasion is another matter when stronger forces are pulling the other way. Has anyone in the western world cracked that one?

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