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22nd August 2014 at 01:00

Why PE provision needs to up its game

Julia Horton's article ("School sport is shaping up, but still missing goal", 8 August) highlights some interesting points in the ongoing physical education debate.

The article states that progress has been made towards 100 per cent compliance with the Scottish government's expectation of two periods of PE per week. Yet statistics show that although the percentage of primary pupils participating in the minimum two hours has increased from 84 per cent in 2012 to 97 per cent in 2014, the trend in secondary schools is completely different. There, the number of pupils in S1 to S4 achieving two periods has fallen from 92 to 90 per cent.

Provision is probably even lower than this owing to the recording method. Do those in schools who fill in the survey understand what constitutes PE? In many cases, probably not - particularly when a non-specialist member of staff is returning the information and probably cannot differentiate between PE, physical activity and sport.

As reported, S5 and S6 students were exempted from these statistics several years ago, resulting in apparently increased provision. As S4 are now part of the senior phase, will they too be removed from the survey in order to massage the figures? Moreover, the target in secondaries was reduced from two hours to two 50-minute periods. This should have enabled significant progress towards the targets rather than the reverse.

With reference to the quality of PE needing to improve, I continue to argue that this should be the case in all school subjects. However, until the two-period target is reached, the focus will always be on the length of time spent in PE rather than its quality.

Do secondary timetablers place less value on core subjects than their primary counterparts? Probably. I have been told that "there is only so much space in the timetable". Are subjects that count towards Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) points deemed to be of higher value? Core subjects, thy fate is sealed.

C A Arthur


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