Weighty task lies ahead for us all

20th January 2006 at 00:00
Ministers, it is often said, are hoist by their own PR. They can also be hoist by their own targets, as this week's figures on physical education in schools bear out (page 5). The target of two hours of PE for all pupils was established by the Education Minister in 2004; the survey relates to 2004-05; and the targets are not due to be achieved until 2008. This is a work in progress, and a complex one at that.

The Executive, and the Education Minister in particular, has to be commended for its drive to improve the nation's diet, health and fitness through the schools. But it is not going to be successful through the efforts of schools alone - or even through the efforts of PE, important though that is. Regular exercising is part of the answer, but how many adults can say they do that?

It is not just a matter of whether the Executive can recruit the additional 400 PE teachers it plans, and there must still be doubt about that. There are more "mundane" matters, such as whether school facilities are sufficient. As Brian Toner, head of St John's Primary in Perth, wrote in one of his regular TESS columns in July last year: "For many primaries, the most serious barrier to effective PE teaching is the shared hall."

These are the realities facing schools, which should not be expected to bear the weight of the obesity challenge on their own. It is a task that requires a community response.

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