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Schools (Physical Education)

Question Time — Scottish Executive — Education and Young People, Tourism, Culture and Sport – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:00 pm on 16th September 2004.

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Photo of Janis Hughes Janis Hughes Labour 2:00 pm, 16th September 2004

To ask the Scottish Executive what progress is being made in plans to increase physical education in schools. (S2O-3230)

Photo of Peter Peacock Peter Peacock Labour

I have outlined a 10-point action plan that is aimed at providing more time for physical education in our schools, more teachers of physical education in our schools and more choice in physical education for our pupils. The Scottish Executive Education Department is working with Learning and Teaching Scotland, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education and other stakeholders to take those pledges forward.

Photo of Janis Hughes Janis Hughes Labour

I am pleased to hear the minister promise more physical education teachers in our schools. Will he tell us just how many more teachers we can expect? Does he agree that only by encouraging more children to participate will we be able to help them to achieve successes like Andrew Murray's recent achievement?

Photo of Peter Peacock Peter Peacock Labour

Janis Hughes makes an important point about Andrew Murray's success, which the First Minister highlighted earlier today. We want that kind of success in our schools and we want young people to come through with those kinds of skills. However, we also want more people to participate actively in sport. That is why we will increase the number of PE teachers by 400, which is a significant increase. Our teacher training colleges and universities have already taken on many more trainees—this year's intake of PE teachers has increased by 300 per cent—to ensure that we can fulfil that pledge of providing 400 extra teachers.

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

Does the minister agree that it is important not only to increase the level of physical education in our schools but to ensure that the physical education programme is varied? On that note, is he aware that 350 young people from 30 different countries gathered at the Adventure Centre at Ratho last weekend to participate in the world rock-climbing championships? Does he agree that education authorities across the central belt could utilise the Ratho centre to provide a varied PE programme? Given the Ratho centre's financial difficulties, what action will he take to ensure that education authorities use that world-class facility?

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

I remind Mr Matheson that he may ask only one supplementary question of the minister.

Photo of Peter Peacock Peter Peacock Labour

I agree entirely about the need to increase the available choice in physical education programmes for young people in our schools. A key recommendation of our PE review made that very point. We need to widen choice so that we can engage young people in the things that they enjoy doing. Having participated in rock climbing when I was a good deal younger, I would very much welcome it if more young people were involved in that sport. I have been to the Ratho facility, although I have not yet climbed there—

Photo of Peter Peacock Peter Peacock Labour

I take the member's word for it. I will be happy to try the facility out when I regain some fitness.

I would love to see more people use the kind of facility that exists in Ratho, which is an excellent example of its kind not just in Scotland, but in Europe. Ultimately, the decision rests with schools, but I will do everything that I can to encourage them to use those kinds of facilities.

Photo of Lord James Selkirk Lord James Selkirk Conservative

What progress is being made through the active schools programme to improve the involvement of parents and volunteers in the provision of after-school sports clubs?

Photo of Peter Peacock Peter Peacock Labour

Lord James highlights an important issue. Developing sports and increasing capacity are not only about increasing the number of teachers in our schools—although that is an important part—but about encouraging links between schools and the voluntary associations that provide a great deal of high-quality sport in Scotland. Our active primary school programme now extends to more than 600 primary schools in Scotland and to all local authorities except one. We have employed co-ordinators to develop the initiative. The thrust of the programme is to ensure that more young people are more active within the school, but we also need to take activity beyond school, so we require the help of volunteers in that process.