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Why some pupils are refusing to do sport

Scottish youngsters do not participate in sport because they prefer to spend their evenings hanging out with pals, they told politicians earlier this week.

Other barriers include cost and a reluctance to travel too far to facilities, writes Emma Seith.

In a question-and-answer session with MSPs at Wester Hailes Education Centre in Edinburgh, secondary-age girls reported they dropped out of sport as they grew older because they became embarrassed and self-conscious. Some pupils admitted, however, they simply did not like physical activity.

Iain Arthur plays the piano and the saxophone but avoids playing sport at all costs. He is one of just two pupils at Wester Hailes Education Centre in Edinburgh who has refused to take PE in S4.

Speaking to MSPs on the Parliament's health and sport committee, investigating pathways into sport, he said: "I don't really like physical activity; it just does not interest me at all. It's probably laziness but other than swimming, which I don't mind so much, I just don't like it."

At WHEC, most pupils engage in PE in school, but getting them to engage after school is tough, said acting depute head Stuart Heggie, who is also principal teacher of PE.

Lauren Cowin, 15, said: "I just want to go out with my pals and don't want to come back to school."

Homework could be an issue, said Lauren McCathie, 15: "Sometimes you've too much homework or you've just got other stuff planned."

Boys would play football in the evening, Mr Heggie felt. However, this was one area in which the school, which has a swimming pool and fitness centre, was lacking. The grass pitch was waterlogged and the council was refusing to repair it or replace it with AstroTurf because neighbouring PPP schools had pitches. But the fees for using these pitches were unaffordable, he argued.

"We are already open from 9am to 9pm and at weekends," he said. "If we had AstroTurf, it would be used 247."

Brian Harris, sports and outdoor education manager for the council, admitted facilities in Public Private Partnership schools could be expensive because the schools had "income targets".

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