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5th Report, 2009 (Session 3)

Pathways into sport and physical activity

CONTENTS

Remit and membership

Report
SECTION ONE: INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND TO THE INQUIRY

Introduction
Physical activity and public health
The opportunity for a lasting legacy from London 2012 and Glasgow 2014
Phase 1 of the inquiry – the view from elite athletes
Remit and evidence at phase two of the inquiry
Structure of the report

SECTION TWO: PHYSICAL EDUCATION IN SCHOOLS

Introduction
The link from physical education to physical activity
Physical education through the school years
Two hours of quality physical education
The two hour target: the Committee’s view
The need for change: ambition at central and local government levels
The need for change: HMIE’s role
The need for change: teaching and school facilities
East Renfrewshire: a case study
Transition from PE to sport

SECTION THREE: THE ACTIVE SCHOOLS PROGRAMME

Introduction
Active schools
Integration of Active Schoolsinto sports strategies
Active schools: looking to the future

SECTION FOUR: LOCAL, INTEGRATED SPORTS PROVISION

Introduction
Local authorities’ statutory responsibilities
Sports hubs
Integrated local sports strategies
Facilities
Capacity building in local sports clubs

SECTION FIVE:CONCLUSIONS AND SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS

Annexe A: EXTRACT FROM THE MINUTES OF THE HEALTH AND SPORT COMMITTEE

Annexe B: ORAL EVIDENCE AND ASSOCIATED WRITTEN EVIDENCE

Annexe C: LIST OF OTHER WRITTEN EVIDENCE

Remit and membership

Remit:

To consider and report on (a) health policy and the NHS in Scotland and other matters falling within the responsibility of the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing and (b) matters relating to sport falling within the responsibility of the Minister for Public Health and Sport.

Membership:

Jackie Baillie (from 2 November 2008 until 29 April 2009)
Helen Eadie
Ross Finnie (Deputy Convener)
Christine Grahame (Convener)
Rhoda Grant (until 1 November 2008 and then from 30 April 2009)
Michael Matheson
Ian McKee
Mary Scanlon
Dr Richard Simpson

Committee Clerking Team:

Clerk to the Committee
Callum Thomson

Senior Assistant Clerk
Douglas Thornton

Assistant Clerk
Rebecca Lamb
Seán Wixted

Committee Assistant
Euan Bain

Pathways into sport and physical activity

The Committee reports to the Parliament as follows—

Introduction

1. Despite the weight of evidence demonstrating the health benefits of leading a physically active lifestyle, two thirds of Scottish adults and one third of Scottish children do not do enough physical activity to gain these benefits. Two thirds of teenage girls are also reported as being physically inactive.1 According to Audit Scotland, the number of adults participating in sport on a weekly basis fell from 49 per cent in 2001 to 42 per cent in 2006.

2. It is only since 2007 that the health and sport portfolios have been linked at a central government level.

3. In November 2007, Glasgow won the right to hold the Commonwealth Games in 2014.

4. It was in the light of these developments and against the backdrop of Scotland’s continuing poor public health record that the Health and Sport Committee decided that the time was right to examine some of the government policies and sporting infrastructure issues that affect individuals’ pathways into sport.

5. As context for the Committee’s work, it is worthwhile briefly setting out the positive links between physical activity and the state of the nation’s health and then setting out the potential for a lasting legacy from the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Physical activity and public health

6. The benefits of leading a physically active lifestyle are well documented. These include healthy growth and development of the musculo-skeletal system and energy balance for the maintenance of healthy weight.2

7. The recently published five year review of the strategy for physical activity reported the strong scientific evidence that physical activity can protect against many of Scotland’s leading chronic diseases. The report also made clear the role that physical activity can play in promoting positive mental health and well-being.3

8. Physically active people are said to reduce their risk of premature death by a third and halve their risk of developing major chronic disease such as coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. The risk of physical inactivity for coronary heart disease is similar to high levels of cholesterol, high blood pressure or smoking.4

Obesity levels

9. Although Scotland has an improving public health record in some areas – for example, reduced levels of smoking – the trend for obesity levels5 is disturbing. The most recent statistics contained in the 2003 Scottish Health Survey showed that the percentage of adult men (aged 16–64) who are overweight had risen from 56 per cent in 1995 to 64 per cent in 2003, with obesity levels rising from 16 per cent to 22 per cent. The equivalent figures for women were a rise from 47 per cent overweight in 1995 to 57 per cent in 2003, with the obesity rates going from 17 per cent to 24 per cent. The results of the 2008 Health Survey will be available later this year and this will give a clearer steer as to whether the position has deteriorated further.

10. According to the Scottish Government’s publication, Healthy Eating, Active Living—

“Predicting long term trends for prevalence of obesity is complex because many variables are unknown. However, extrapolating from current trends the Foresight Report predicts that obesity levels across the UK could be at 60% in men and 50% in women by 2050.”6

11. Obesity is linked to a wide range of health problems including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis and depression. It is generally accepted that a combination of a balanced diet plus regular exercise is the key to maintaining a healthy weight in the first instance.

12. The benefits of leading an active lifestyle go far beyond physical fitness. From an education perspective, physical education and participation in sport offer children the chance to acquire social skills, enhance self-esteem and increase a sense of social responsibility.7 Indeed, it is also acknowledged that wider societal, environmental and economic benefits will be gained from getting the Scottish population more active.8

The opportunity for a lasting legacy from London 2012 and Glasgow 2014

13. The staging in the UK of two of the world’s most prestigious sporting events in a two-year period (the London 2012 Olympic Games and the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games) represents a significant opportunity for raising the profile of sport in Scotland. In addition to these events, Scotland will also host the Children’s Games in 2011 (in Lanarkshire) and the Ryder Cup in 2014 (at Gleneagles). In order for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014, in particular, to be regarded as a success for the whole of Scotland, there needs to be more than simply two weeks of world-class sport.

14. The Committee is aware that both of the two most recent Commonwealth Games resulted in significant rises in the expressed intention of the people of Manchester and Melbourne to participate in sport. However, as Professor Fred Coalter told the Committee, “the leap between intention and action is pretty big”9.10

15. The Committee is clear that this leap must be made to ensure that a lasting legacy is achieved. To this end, the Scottish Government is currently developing its legacy plan. In its interim document, the Scottish Government acknowledges that other sporting events have not managed to harness the heightened level of exposure, excitement and interest to deliver a sustained increase in participation in physical activity and sport. In the interim legacy report, the Scottish Government states—

“For the legacy, we want to break the mould. Working hand-in-hand with COSLA, each of the local authorities, sportscotland and other appropriate public, private and third sector bodies, we want to transform today’s grassroots sport and physical activity landscape”.11

16. From a community sports perspective, the draft legacy paper suggests that a successful legacy might achieve—

  • an increase in the number of sports and physical activity clubs/groups across Scotland;
  • an increase in the number of active members, including volunteers, in these clubs/groups; and
  • an increase in the number of quality, affordable local facilities available within communities.12

17. From a health perspective, the draft legacy report suggests that a successful legacy might provide:

  • improvements in physical activity and well-being of the population as measured through the Scottish Health Survey; and
  • positive survey results indicating changed attitudes to physical activity and other aspects of healthy living.13

18. The Committee’s view is that it is not the staging of the Commonwealth Games, in itself, that will deliver these legacies. The groundwork needs to be done in advance so that the infrastructure is in place to take advantage of the momentum that the Games will provide. The Committee’s opinion is that starting these preparations now is the only way to achieve a lasting legacy. This is the challenge – to succeed where virtually all other host countries have failed in securing long term benefits.

Phase 1 of the inquiry – the view from elite athletes

19. In 2008, the Committee took evidence from a number of Scots who have all succeeded at the highest level in their respective sports. The Committee was interested to find out how these individuals had become involved in sport and to discover what barriers they had had to overcome to become elite athletes.

20. A recurring theme in their evidence was the crucial role that school plays in teaching children the importance of being active, fit and healthy. There was a remarkable consistency in their views that it is fundamental for children at an early age to learn basic physical literacy skills – the “ABCs” of athleticism, balance, co-ordination and speed – so that they are equipped with the necessary skills required for specialised sports at an older age.

21. One of the other messages to emerge from these evidence sessions was that there does not appear to be evidence of success at an elite level in a particular sport leading to sustained, increased participation levels in that sport. Indeed some of these elite athletes (notably Liz McColgan and Rhona Martin) had witnessed a decline in young people’s participation in their sports, both in terms of lower levels of sports club membership or in a falling off in participation levels. A number of reasons were put forward for this—

  • the amount, range and level of sport provided in schools;
  • the number and quality of, and lack of access to, sporting facilities;
  • a societal change whereby young children are less likely to play outside or walk to school;
  • the greater range of sports and physical activities may have reduced the number of participants in any one particular sport; and
  • greater access to other sources of entertainment, specifically computer games and television.

Remit and evidence at phase two of the inquiry

22. Around the same time as the Committee was taking evidence from elite athletes, the Auditor General for Scotland published his report, A performance overview of sport in Scotland14. One of the report’s findings is that better progress has been made on targets for elite athlete performance than has been the case for targets for young people’s participation.

23. The positive role that physical activity can play in preventing ill health is well documented and the Committee’s view is that this key public health message is generally well recognised. For example, in two visits to secondary schools, members of the Committee found that all the pupils were aware that physical activity was ‘good for them’. Despite understanding this message, for a very sizeable proportion of these pupils, this did not translate to participating in much physical activity. While the elite picture is more positive, John Beattie told the Committee that, typically, the people who win medals at the Commonwealth Games have been privately educated.15 The suggestion is that sporting success at the highest level is masking a more worrying mass participation picture. Across Scotland, the number of Scots participating in sport is declining and targets for young people's participation are not being met.

24. This indicator (along with the positive signs that appear to be emerging on the elite side of things) influenced why the Committee chose to concentrate its second phase of the inquiry on mass participation issues rather than elite activity. The goal for the inquiry was to encourage physical activity in general and, to this end, the Committee was keen to understand why participation rates in sport are poor and, specifically, to investigate the barriers that Scots face in the early stages of their pathway into sport.

25. Accordingly, the Committee issued a call for evidence on three topics for phase two of the inquiry: children and sport; community facilities; and coaching. Views were sought on the following areas—

Children and sport

  • What level of sport and physical activity should be provided by primary and, separately, secondary schools?
  • Is a lack of the right type of facilities in schools compromising sports education?
  • Who has the responsibility for ensuring that there is adequate sports education in the school system?
  • Are there enough of the right facilities in schools to deliver appropriate levels of sports education?
  • How can the links between schools and sports clubs be improved?
  • What differences have active schools co-ordinators made to the links between schools and clubs?
  • What are the barriers to universal access for children to sport, for example, travel costs and the cost of equipment and kit?

Community facilities

  • How effective has the National and Regional Sports Facilities Strategy been in delivering facilities for community use?
  • Do local authorities have their own community sports facilities strategies? Where such strategies exist, what role do community planning partnerships and community health partnerships play in developing these strategies?
  • What are the barriers to making better use of school and other facilities, such as by the wider community and how can such barriers be overcome?
  • How can examples of best practice in the provision of facilities be learned from and rolled out on a wider basis?
  • What lessons can be learnt from the way in which community sports facilities are used in other countries?

Coaching

  • Are there enough coaches and volunteers to support sport in Scotland?
  • What systems exist to make sure that best use is made of the coaches who are currently available?
  • What are the barriers to more people coaching, and volunteering to support, sport in Scotland?

Written evidence

26. The Committee launched a call for evidence on the above remit and received 97 submissions. A further 21 supplementary submissions were received following witnesses’ appearances before the Committee to give oral evidence to the Committee.

Oral evidence

27. The Committee took oral evidence on 14, 21 and 26 January (in Stirling); 25February (a ‘public meeting’ with 25 representatives of sports governing bodies), and 4 and 11 March 2009.

Fact-finding visits

28. In addition to the formal evidence-taking sessions, members of the Committee undertook a programme of informal visits and meetings with—

  • East Renfrewshire Council officials, representatives from Active8 and representatives of athletics, cheerleading, football and tennis clubs at East Renfrewshire Council offices in Barrhead;
  • active schools co-ordinators, active schools managers and sportscotland officials at sportscotland’s then headquarters in Edinburgh;
  • a cross-section of coaches and volunteers from a range of sports, including volunteer and professional coaches and club volunteers/office bearers at the University of Stirling;
  • representatives of Active Stirling at Stirling Council’s new sports hub;
  • pupils and PE staff to discuss the teaching of PE and PE facilities at Dumbarton Academy; and
  • pupils and PE staff to discuss the teaching of PE and PE facilities at Wester Hailes Education Centre.

29. The Committee would like to express its gratitude to all the individuals and organisations that submitted evidence or otherwise participated in the inquiry.

Structure of the report

30. As a result of the strength of the evidence received on the importance of addressing the barriers in the early part of the pathway into sport, the report focuses on the needs of children, young people and community sports clubs. On this basis, the remainder of the report is structured, as follows—

  • Section two: physical education in schools;
  • Section three: active schools programme;
  • Section four: local, integrated sports provision; and
  • Section five: conclusion and summary of recommendations.

section two: PHYSICAL EDUCATION in Schools

Introduction

31. Since 2003, with the publication of Let’s Make Scotland More Active16, there has been a target to achieve 50 per cent of all adults and 80 per cent of all children meeting the minimum recommended levels of physical activity by 2022. The minimum levels of physical activity are that children should accumulate at least 60 minutes physical activity of moderate intensity on a daily basis and that adults should accumulate 30 minutes physical activity of moderate intensity activity on most days of the week.17

32. Earlier in this parliamentary session, the Committee undertook some work in relation to health inequalities. Perhaps the strongest message to emerge from that work was the need to focus on early interventions on the basis that children’s circumstances in the earliest years of life are critical to future health inequalities.

33. As might be expected, a similar message applies in relation to physical activity. There is consensus that a person has a far greater likelihood of leading a physically active lifestyle as an adult if he or she has adopted this habit during childhood. Related to this, there is also consensus that, in order for a child to be physically active, he or she first needs to be what is known as “physically literate”. Physical literacy is the product of quality physical education in childhood.

34. Relevant to the physical activity target is the target dating back to 2004 that all schools should provide a minimum of two hours quality physical education per week. Section two of the report therefore relates to the teaching of physical education in schools.

The link from physical education to physical activity

35. Before examining this target in some depth, it is worthwhile clarifying the definition of terms which have a tendency to be erroneously used interchangeably but which are nevertheless inter-related.

Physical activity

36. This is a general term used to describe movement of the body that uses energy. The goal for good health is to increase the amount of physical activity. Physical activity can be achieved in many ways; for example, exercise including brisk walking, housework, gardening, play, dance and sport.

Sport

37. There is an ongoing debate about what constitutes sport but one broad definition is that it includes all forms of physical activity which, through casual or organised participation, aim at expressing or improving physical fitness and mental well-being, forming social relationships or obtaining results in competition at all levels.18 Participation in sport is the taking part in any sports or other physical recreations that have governing bodies or a formal structure.

Physical education (PE)

38. According to the Scottish Government, PE is the planned, progressive learning that takes place in school curriculum timetabled time. The context for this learning is physical activity with children experiencing a broad range of activities, including sport and dance. The Scottish Government states that PE has three broad aims, namely to improve—

  • young people’s physical competence and performance;
  • their knowledge and understanding of the body, health and how to improve their performance; and
  • their personal and social development.19

39. According to the Minister for Schools and Skills, “PE is the only comprehensive and educationally sound way we have to ensure that all children and young people have the skills and understanding necessary to live a physically active life. For many, school is the main environment for being physically active.”20

Physical literacy

40. This is the term used to describe the achievement of competence and the displaying of confidence in basic movement, stability and object control skills that underpin both sport specific skills and enhanced physical fitness through physical activity.

41. Physical education leads to physical literacy. Children who are physically literate have the confidence and skills to participate in physical activity. In the words of Chris Robison of the Scottish Sports Association, “if children are competent and confident in their ability to be physically active, they have much more opportunity to participate in sport and more choice of sport”.21

Physical education through the school years

42. The Committee considers that a child’s physical education should equip them with the knowledge and skills that they require to move onto the next stage and ultimately prepare them for a life of physical activity and sport after school.

43. Brent Deans of Scottish Hockey told the Committee about the importance of the pathway for children’s physical education: at nursery and primary level, PE should focus on physical literacy development and the basic moves programme and, at secondary level, this should move to more sport-specific participation.22

Nursery education

44. The Committee received evidence that early years intervention in the provision of physical literacy is key and that nursery education should include the foundations for physical literacy delivered through structured play. The Committee was told about the success of physical literacy programmes including the Basic Moves Programme23 and the “Mini-Cheer” programme in East Renfrewshire. The Basic Moves Programme aims to help children develop the ability to perform basic movements in a technically efficient, adaptable and creative manner and apply these in different games, sports and dance. Clackmannanshire Council was cited as being an example of a local authority that has grasped the need for a programme of physical activity for very young children. It delivers a programme called Active Start for all three-and-four-year-olds, which consists of basic movement patterns and co-ordination activities.

Primary education

45. Several witnesses emphasised that a child’s development should focus initially on the acquisition of basic skills before moving on to being more sport specific. The Committee received evidence on the success of the TOP Programme24. The TOP Programme is split into two areas of focus, with TOP Play aimed at children aged four to nine, introducing them to essential core skills such as throwing, catching, running and jumping and TOP Sport aimed at children aged between seven and eleven developing skills in specific sports.

46. This approach to PE was supported by the Scottish Sports Association who believe that at primaries one to three, PE should focus on core skills to enable children to run, jump, throw, catch and swim – skills described as the “FUNdamentals” by sportscotland25. Chris Wood of the Association of Physical Education Scotland told the Committee that, by the age of seven or eight, primary school teachers are looking for children to have the fundamentals of physical literacy in place26.

Secondary education

47. In addition to providing the transition to sport-specific education and participation, one of the other objectives for secondary level PE is the retention of teenage girls’ interest and engagement in physical education and activity. What emerged from the evidence was that this was a formidable challenge for secondary PE teachers. For example, Charlie Raeburn, a member of a PE Review Group established by the previous Scottish Executive, highlighted that peer-group pressure meant that it was typical for many adolescent girls to lose interest in sport27. He cited the statistic that two thirds of teenage girls are inactive28.

48. PE has been a certified subject for a number of years and Fraser Booth, a secondary headteacher and representative of School Leaders Scotland (formerly the Headteachers Association of Scotland) advised the Committee that there had, in the past ten years, been a remarkable rise in the past ten years in pupils taking Standard Grade PE29.

49. The Committee heard evidence, however, that the development of PE as an academic subject had not increased the number of students receiving core physical education during the later years of their secondary education. Many pupils in the post-14 school environment opt out of physical education after choices about subject selection have been made.

50. The Committee also received evidence that some schools no longer provide the option of PE for senior pupils unless they are pursuing it as a certified subject30. The Scottish Sports Association stated that it believed PE and sport were essential for secondary four to secondary six pupils—

“Allowing children to opt out from participation in physical activity programmes around age 15 can be detrimental to their long term participation in sport and physical activity. If the appropriate programmes are in place it also provides a welcome break from the academic curriculum and can reinforce the message that sport is a worthwhile activity that can and should be carried on into adulthood.”31

Two hours of quality physical education

The two hour target: historical development

51. The ambition to achieve the provision of two hours’ quality physical education (for each child every week) in schools is not particularly new. Over a decade ago, sportscotland’s predecessor – the Scottish Sports Council – produced a strategy, Sport 21: Nothing left to chance32,which stated that, by 2003, every primary school should provide a minimum of two hours or three 40 minute periods of physical education per pupil each week.33

52. In June 2001, the Scottish Executive set up the National Physical Activity Task Force (“the task force”). In 2003, the task force published Let’s make Scotland more active: a strategy for physical activity, which was a broad framework of objectives and priorities for the development of physical activity in Scotland.

53. The task force identified significant problems with the PE curriculum. Its view was that a growing number of pupils were opting out of core PE and a growing number of schools were reducing the allocation of PE, especially in the upper secondary school.

54. The sequel to Sport 21: Nothing left to chance was published in 2003. This document, Sport 21 2003-2007: The National Strategy for Sport, echoed the importance the task force had placed on the provision of quality PE and reiterated the target identified in the previous sports strategy, that progress should be made towards schoolchildren taking part in at least two hours of high-quality PE classes once a week. Unlike the previous strategy which specified that the two hour target was for primary level, Sport 21 referred to all schoolchildren, not just those at primary school34. However, the target did not extend to nursery education.

55. The Physical Education Review Group (“the review group”) was set up in 2003 at the request of Scottish Ministers in response to a recommendation made by the task force to consider how schools could plan, deliver and monitor improvements in the provision of quality PE. The review group drew upon the strategy proposed in Sport 21 and made a series of recommendations on participation, the curriculum, specialist support to primary schools, sharing good practice, school programmes, research, teacher training and facilities.

56. In June 2004, the Scottish Executive endorsed the review group’s report and recommendations. The then Minister for Education and Young People, Peter Peacock MSP, wrote to all local authority directors of education, headteachers, initial teacher education institutions and active schools managers and co-ordinators with details of ten actions that needed to be taken to implement the review group’s recommendations.

57. One of the ten actions identified by the Scottish Executive in 2004 was that there should be sufficient flexibility in the curriculum to allow schools to accommodate the provision of at least two hours of good quality physical education for each child every week, and more if possible, and that the target should be achieved by schools over the following four academic years.

58. Another of the Scottish Executive’s actions was a commitment that HM Inspectorate of Education for Scotland (HMIE) should monitor implementation of the two hour target as part of its inspections and that HMIE, along with Learning and Teaching Scotland, should disseminate good practice in PE. The Scottish Executive also committed to the provision of 400 additional PE teachers and more opportunities for primary teachers to enhance their qualifications to support more physical activity in schools.

59. In January 2006, the Scottish Executive published data that revealed only one in 20 of Scotland’s primary school pupils was receiving two hours of PE per week. The then Minister for Education and Young People wrote to the education conveners in each of the 32 local authorities outlining the Executive’s expectations and seeking their assurances that they would dedicate themselves to ensuring that things would quickly improve in the worst performing areas.35

60. In March 2007, the latest strategy Reaching higher: building on the success of Sport 21 was published by the Scottish Executive. It stated that one of the roles and responsibilities of the Scottish Executive was to work with local authorities to deliver the review group’s recommendations to provide two hours of quality PE for every child every week. The strategy did not make specific reference to a target date for the achievement of the target.

The two hour target: performance

61. The Auditor General for Scotland published a Performance overview of sport in Scotland (“the AGS report”) in April 2008. The AGS report stated that the target set by the Scottish Executive in 2004 that all schoolchildren should receive two hours of physical education each week was not likely to be met.

62. According to the AGS report, the position in 2005 was that only five per cent of primary schools provided the minimum of two hours physical education each week. Seven per cent of secondary schools provided the minimum two hours for pupils in the first four years, but none met the target for older pupils.36

63. The AGS report noted that this position was poor compared with England where by 2007, on average, over 70 per cent of pupils under 14 and one third of pupils aged 14 to 16 received at least two hours of PE each week.37

64. Since the Scottish data in the AGS report was quite dated, the Public Audit Committee (when examining the AGS report) pressed the Scottish Government for an update on the performance of schools. The main points from the Scottish Government’s response are set out below—

Primary schools

“Not all schools are delivering two hours [but] HMIE are certainly seeing more schools delivering two periods of physical education per week for all pupils in P1 to P7. This has been a significant shift for some schools who, prior to the target’s introduction, had reduced most pupils’ PE experience in primary schools to only one session each week which would have been less than one hour in total. Whilst this is still substantially short of the two hour target, HMIE has engaged in discussion with schools about how they plan to take it forward.”

Secondary schools

“Information from secondary inspections also shows a gradual shift in a positive direction although there is still some way to go. For example, HMIE is seeing a much more positive picture in relation to provision for pupils in S5 and S6. Many more of the schools they inspect are now offering core PE to pupils in the senior school whereas prior to the target they found very few schools who were offering core PE to pupils in the senior school.”38

65. The target date to deliver the provision of two hours of PE by 2008, originally set by Peter Peacock MSP as Minister for Education and Young People in 2004, has now passed. To the Committee’s knowledge, no assessment or announcement was made by the Scottish Executive or the new Scottish Government about the success or failure to reach this target in the allotted four year period.

66. When HMIE gave oral evidence to the Committee, the up-to-date performance figures were not given. But, in supplementary written evidence, HMIE stated that, in 2008, of the 237 primary schools inspected, around a third were providing young people with two hours PE at each stage.

67. The position for secondary schools is that in 2008, of the 50 secondary school inspections, two thirds of schools met the two hours physical education target at S1/S2 and a majority at S3/S4, although at S5 and S6 only one in seven schools met the target.39

68. Fraser Booth from School Leaders Scotland suggested to the Committee that positive progress on the provision of physical education was being made in secondary schools, with more schools offering core physical education than was the case five years ago. In supplementary evidence, Mr Booth stated that, having been in contact with colleagues in nearly all of the local authorities, “overall the pattern of provision of core PE in secondary schools has improved but remains below the two hour target [but] there is no ‘one size fits all solution’ to this challenging yet realistic target”.40

69. This contention was supported by the evidence received from Bruce Robertson from the Association of Directors of Education Scotland (ADES). He made reference to a survey that ADES had conducted in early 2009 into the provision of PE in the 32 local authorities. He reported what he called “good progress” towards meeting the target. He told the Committee that, whilst several barriers to progress were highlighted in the survey’s findings, the training of teachers, the active schools programmes and greater stability in the number of PE teachers had all aided progress towards meeting the target.41

70. As the inquiry progressed, the Committee experienced a growing sense at the disconnect between the views expressed by the educational establishment, in the form of HMIE and ADES, and the reality on the ground, as relayed to the Committee by individual secondary PE teachers, representatives of sports governing bodies and individual community clubs.

71. The current position is that only one local authority – East Renfrewshire Council – has managed to achieve the target. The Committee was also told of very good progress being made by a number of other local authorities, including Perth and Kinross Council and Clackmannanshire Council. In the case of Perth and Kinross Council, all primary schools are providing two hours of PE for every pupil every week. This represents a major turnaround given that, as recently as 2004/05, the average performance was a mere 72 minutes per week.42

72. In contrast, in the City of Edinburgh Council area in 2008, only three out of 23 secondary schools gave S1 to S4 pupils two hours of PE. Only 18 per cent of primary school children received two hours of PE or more.43 (It should be noted that the council’s own PE target was only 90 minutes per week for 2008/09, rising to 100 minutes for 2009/10.) The figures represent an improvement on the previous year’s figures although they fall short of meeting the national target or even aspiring to it.

73. In an otherwise disappointing picture in Edinburgh, the performance of the Wester Hailes Education Centre (WHEC) stands out. Serving a deprived area, the secondary school has managed its curriculum in such a way that all S1 pupils receive two hours’ PE, rising to three hours’ PE in S2 and S3 and five hours’ PE in S4. At S5 and S6, PE becomes optional. In this age group, it is known that many young people (particularly girls) drop out of physical activity. In this context, WHEC’s performance is impressive: 64% of S5 and S6 pupils choose to take PE classes.44

74. Beyond the statistics, the Committee received evidence that the quality of the provision of some physical education in primary schools is poor. The Scottish Sports Association highlighted that the levels of fitness and lack of basic physical literacy skills presented by children when they join sports clubs are a major concern to many sports.45

75. This view was supported by evidence during the Committee’s informal visits to secondary schools. The Committee learned that children were arriving at secondary school not having acquired the appropriate physical literacy skills at primary level. The view from secondary school teachers in one school was that the physical literacy of S1 pupils was at the lowest level that they could remember (stretching back 20 to 30 years) and that it had been declining in recent years.

76. The Committee heard that, at primary level in particular, the attitude of the class teacher is critical as it is likely to dictate the quality of the lesson, which will, in turn, have a substantial impact on whether pupils are engaged early on in the process. One comment on this topic came from Thomas Dowens of the Scottish Volleyball Association who suggested that, whilst the theory behind what is delivered at primary schools is quite clear and robust, the actual delivery is often carried out by a classroom teacher who has no physical education experience46.

77. This opinion chimed with the views of secondary PE teachers who told members that there was often considerable variation in the physical literacy of first-year pupils and that this variation could be attributed to the feeder primary schools that the pupils had attended. Indeed, the variation in performance by S1 pupils could often be attributed to the attitude and competence of individual primary school teachers in the same school.

78. One of the impressive aspects of the visits undertaken by several members at secondary schools was the ambition being shown by the PE teaching staff and, in particular, their being attuned to the kind of activities that are likely to appeal to pupils prone to disengaging from physical activity, most obviously teenage girls. For example, gym-type exercise classes were being offered in one school and hip- hop-jazz dance classes in another.

The two hour target: monitoring of performance

79. The national survey of participation rates was conducted in 2004/05 and it has provided the baseline assessment of the starting position from which progress towards the two hour target has been able to be measured.47 Since this assessment, HMIE has been responsible for monitoring implementation of the two hour target through its inspection programme.

80. The Committee questioned Donald Macleod on HMIE’s approach to monitoring the PE target and the Committee was advised that, “if no mention of PE is made in a report, you can take it that we are satisfied that the children's learning experiences in physical education are satisfactory.”48

81. In written evidence, HMIE stated that it gives high priority to considering each school’s progress towards the two hour target, following it up in every inspection and, in all schools, discussing the findings with senior managers and education authority representatives.49

82. HMIE emphasised that it took a proportionate approach to reporting, with reports praising schools that are achieving, or progressing towards, the target and highlighting schools that are not taking appropriate steps to meet the target.50

83. The Committee questioned the Minister for Schools and Skills on this matter and he explained that the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning had asked HMIE to be more transparent in how it reports on the target to address the concerns raised by the Committee.51

84. Graham Donaldson, HM Senior Chief Inspector, subsequently wrote to the Committee explaining how HMIE intended to be more transparent in its reporting of PE. He stated that, under the new curriculum for excellence, the provision of health and well-being (of which physical education and physical activity are a component) had increased priority within the curriculum which will be reflected in changes in inspection practice. He went on to say—

In each inspection we will […] report on each school’s progress towards the two hours target [the Committee’s emphasis]. In commenting on the school’s progress towards the target, we will also take account of inspection evidence about the quality of experience for learners and the factors that bear on provision for physical education. In addition through inspection task and our ongoing work with education authorities we will maintain a clear overview of progress nationally towards the target and publish our evidence. This will ensure that inspection and reporting look not only at the quantitative aspects of the target but also consider the quality of the provision for children and young people.”52

85. The Committee was disturbed by HMIE’s approach to the inspection of PE, in particular, its view that, if no reference is made to the provision of PE in a school inspection report, it should be assumed that the provision of PE is satisfactory.

86. This type of approach might possibly be appropriate and proportionate if the position across Scotland for the teaching of PE was strong as a whole. But the reality is that lamentable progress has been made since the introduction of the specific government target in 2004 (which followed on from a similar target set by sportscotland’s predecessor body back in 1999). That can be the only conclusion to be drawn since, to give one example, HMIE’s own unpublished records show that, of the schools that it inspected last year, only a third of primary schools were providing two hours of PE per week.

87. The Committee considers that HMIE’s attitude towards the inspection and reporting of PE is symptomatic of the lowly status that PE has enjoyed over a number of years. The Committee is still not persuaded that HMIE has truly grasped that PE should have an equal status to other curricular subjects.

The two hour target: the Committee’s view

88. The Committee’s starting point is that the target of the provision of two hours of quality PE for each child every week is not a target for its own sake. The Committee agrees with the Minister for Schools and Skills that PE is the only comprehensive and educationally sound way we have to ensure that all children and young people have the skills and understanding necessary to live a physically active life.

89. The target represents an input measure that is meant to ensure that all children receive the PE that they require in order to achieve the outcome of being physically literate in order to be able to participate in physical activity outside of school and into adulthood.

90. The Committee believes that the provision of two hours of PE should be recognised as being an absolute minimum. The Committee also considers that it is important that the PE target is not confused with other physical activity targets. While other school-related activity is strongly encouraged, it should not be conflated with two hours of taught PE, as part of the school week.

91. A veiled comment is sometimes made that a compulsion to take part in PE might actually be counter-productive if the choice of sporting activities is limited or of poor quality. While the Committee is alert to these matters, it does not accept the premise of the argument for the following reason. The Committee is not aware of any other school subject that has an accompanying ‘quality tag’. It is a matter of professional competence that PE should be taught to a high standard, in the same way as any other curricular subject. This is a matter for individual headteachers and HMIE to monitor. Of course, what has transpired during the course of the Committee’s inquiry is that HMIE did not, until now, routinely inspect or report PE to the same standard, or in the same transparent way, as it did for other curricular subjects.

92. While the Committee is under no illusion that meeting the two hour PE target will, of itself, be a panacea to turning around our national physical inactivity, the Committee is convinced that the teaching of two hours of PE from primary to upper secondary school levels is of fundamental importance to the delivery of the wider physical activity agenda. The Committee believes that the provision of two hours of quality PE should be regarded as an entitlement for every school-aged child in Scotland as it provides them with a pathway to a lifetime of physical activity. The Committee also believes that a target should be established for structured play and physical activity at nursery school, as ways in which the principles behind physical literacy can be introduced to nursery-age children.

93. The Committee is disturbed by the evidence that it heard about the devaluation of PE and its failure to be recognised as being an integral part of a child’s development and well-being. There has been a lamentable failure to achieve the target in four academic years, set by the Scottish Executive in 2004. The Committee views the current position on the provision of PE in schools as unacceptable, in relation to (1) the half-hearted way in which educational authorities have implemented the policy and (2) the wholly unsatisfactory manner in which HMIE has monitored performance, which has resulted in parents and elected representatives not being informed about the standard of PE teaching in schools.

94. On the basis of the evidence, the conclusion that the Committee draws is that nobody has taken responsibility for delivering on the policy. The PE target, once adopted, was not given priority status, leading to a failure to adopt a co-ordinated approach to its implementation. It appears to the Committee that the lack of co-ordination between individual Directors of Education and headteachers is certainly one of the reasons behind the lack of progress in meeting the target. Furthermore, at a local authority level (and with honourable exceptions) the Committee agrees with the evidence from Colin Thomson of the Scottish Rugby Union that decision makers (in particular, some Directors of Education and individual headteachers) have not had the will to make it happen.53

95. The Committee considers that PE has not been accorded the status that it should have enjoyed and that the failure to meet the two hour target and achieve satisfactory outcomes stems from this basic problem. The Committee believes that this must change.

The need for change: ambition at central and local government levels

96. In oral evidence, the Minister for Schools and Skills told the Committee that the provision of two hours PE has remained as a target under the Scottish Government since 200754. He said that the Scottish Government hopes to achieve the target by 2011, through its inclusion in the new Curriculum for Excellence.55

97. Following the oral evidence-taking session, the Minister was asked in a written parliamentary question when the two hour target would be met. He responded—

“We are using the concordat with local government to take forward delivery of Scottish Government policies including the development and delivery of Curriculum for Excellence within which the two hours PE target is embedded.

I expect the final version of the Curriculum for Excellence experiences and outcomes to be published on 2 April 2009. This will allow time for schools to begin introducing the new curriculum from August this year with full implementation by August 2010.

Ultimately local authorities are responsible for delivery but there are already examples of local authorities which are making excellent progress. The Scottish Government is working with the Association of Directors of Education Scotland, local authorities and Learning and Teaching Scotland to promote good practice on this and other aspects of the new curriculum.”56

98. The Committee infers that ‘full implementation’ of the Curriculum for Excellence means that the target date for the delivery of two hours of PE has been accelerated from 2011 to August 2010.

99. The Committee commends the ambition expressed by the Minister. But, as the Minister himself acknowledges, it is ultimately a matter for local authorities to deliver this target. The Committee’s view is that one of the principal reasons why performance against the target to date has been so inconsistent is that local authorities have not received a consistently clear message from central government that this target is a national priority. Furthermore, over successive administrations, central government has failed to put in place an adequate performance-monitoring regime.

100. The Committee believes that the Scottish Government should give the target the prominence that it deserves by adopting it as a national performance measure. By so doing, not only would the Scottish Government’s resolve be unambiguous, but there would also be a framework in place whereby performance could be measured and assessed within central government.

101. Turning to single outcome agreements, the Committee notes the Scottish Government’s view that single outcome agreements were never intended to, and do not, contain all the functions and priorities of the Scottish Government, individual local authorities and their partners. The Committee also notes that, in the first cycle of single outcome agreements, six included specific mention of the two hour target. The Committee notes that East Renfrewshire Council and Perth and Kinross Council (both high achievers) were not among the six but that the City of Edinburgh Counil (a low achiever) was among the six.

102. Looking ahead to the second cycle of single outcome agreements (due to be agreed with the Scottish Government by the start of June 2009), the Committee considers that especially close attention should be paid to what the individual community planning partnerships have to say in respect of the target. If the two hour target is to be met by August 2010, then a massive improvement will have to be made by some local authorities. (For example the City of Edinburgh Council’s current target is for schools to average 100 minutes’ PE in 2009/10.)

103. Given the extent of the improvement in performance that will be required in many local authorities, the Committee would be very surprised if this did not translate into it being a priority, worthy of inclusion in relevant single outcome agreements. The Committee therefore recommends that the Scottish Government does not sign off any new single outcome agreement that does not feature the two hour target unless the local authority has already achieved the target or the Scottish Government is otherwise content that the local authority is firmly on track to meet the target by August 2010.

104. In addition to central government needing to show more ambition in relation to the teaching of physical education, the Committee also considers that the Scottish Government should give serious consideration as to how the NHS is contributing to community planning partnerships, particularly in relation to physical activity targets. If the Scottish Government does not consider that a HEAT target is the appropriate means to encourage health boards in this respect, the Committee looks forward to receiving the details of specific methods by which central government monitors the performance of health boards in contributing to delivering improvements in physical activity on a national basis.

The need for change: HMIE’s role

105. The Committee believes that the approach taken by HMIE until now not to include a report on PE as standard in an inspection report has resulted in reports failing to provide information on what is happening in individual schools in relation to the amount and quality of PE being provided. The Committee believes that this highlights a serious and unacceptable discrimination in the importance that HMIE has attached to physical education compared to other disciplines.

106. The Committee welcomes HMIE’s change in policy during the course of the inquiry, whereby, from now on, their inspection reports will include a report on each school’s progress towards the two hour target. The Committee considers that this is a significant step in the right direction and expects that this change in approach by HMIE will mark the start of a dramatic change in the level and consistency of reporting on schools provision of physical education.

107. The Committee considers that it is imperative that PE is inspected to the same level as all other curricular subjects. Inspection reports should be unambiguous and thorough, both in terms of PE provision and the outcome of physical literacy. This level of transparency will enable parents to assess individual schools’ performance and enable elected representatives to have a much clearer picture of physical education provision at local and national levels than is currently the case.

The need for change: teaching and school facilities

108. During the course of the inquiry, a number of reasons were put forward as to why individual schools were not able to meet the two hour target. Among the most commonly cited were—

  • Indifference on the part of some headteachers;
  • Pressure on curriculum;
  • Inadequate facilities (particularly primary school); and
  • Lack of confidence/competence on the part of primary school teachers.

Indifference on the part of some headteachers

109. The Committee received evidence that leadership at headteacher level to deliver the target is crucial. The Committee learnt that the headteacher can act as a gatekeeper to those individuals and bodies wanting to support the delivery of physical education and sport in schools. Stewart Harris, Chief Executive of sportscotland suggested that “the power of the headteacher is absolute, and there is a job to be done around how we influence that important group of people.”57

110. Chris Robison of the Scottish Sports Association told the Committee that delivering on physical education comes down to whether local authorities and headteachers in schools want to make things happen.58

Pressure on curriculum

111. Many submissions cited the pressure on the curriculum as being one of the reasons why PE had been squeezed. Bruce Robertson of ADES told the Committee that the commitment on the part of local authorities is “definitely there but, unless we stop doing something or something else becomes the Cinderella subject— I cannot see what else we can do”.59

112. It is worth noting that the new Curriculum for Excellence adopts a more simplified framework than has been the case in the past, with an emphasis on experiences and outcomes. At the various levels from pre-school to secondary six level, the Curriculum for Excellence set outs what pupils can be expected to have experienced and achieved. In general terms, a more ‘holistic’ approach has been adopted. However, against this background, one input measure has survived, namely that “the Scottish Government expects schools to continue to work towards the provision of at least two hours of good quality PE for every child, every week”.60

Inadequate facilities, particularly at primary school

113. Some witnesses also suggested that the lack of facilities was a barrier to achieving the target. The problems at primary school level tend to focus on those schools in urban areas with very limited outside space and on small, often rural, schools where inside space is at a premium. The Committee heard evidence that many schools, particularly primary schools, have multi-purpose halls that have competing interest for usage including PE, lunch, drama and music.

114. Chris Wood of the Association for Physical Education Scotland said that using the school hall for other purposes eats into the time available for curriculum PE.61 The Committee heard in an informal meeting with active schools co-ordinators that competition for space was often at its most acute in the run-up to Christmas when the school hall is typically used for shows.

115. Fraser Booth of School Leaders Scotland suggested that, at some schools, particularly in central Edinburgh and Glasgow, they do not have their own sports fields, meaning that time and money has to be spent transporting the pupils to these facilities, which reduces the available learning and teaching time.62 Members heard directly from secondary PE teachers in one school that football was taught at local authority pitches around ten minutes’ walk from the school. By the time that the pupils have arrived and changed, the actual teaching time is around half the period time.

116. While the Committee is very aware of many individual schools whose facilities are far from ideal, it is important to note that the school estate, generally, is much improved in recent years. A report by the Auditor General for Scotland and the Accounts Commission in 2008 made it clear that a significant amount of investment has been made in the last ten years and that significant progress had been made in upgrading the school estate.63

Lack of confidence/competence on part of primary school teachers.

117. Perhaps the issue to emerge as the biggest barrier to the achievement of the two hour target, particularly at primary levels, was that some primary school teachers do not appear to have the confidence to deliver quality PE and that they need more support.

118. Chris Wood of the Association for Physical Education Scotland told the Committee that the PE component in initial teacher education is very small and that class teachers do not tend to come out of initial teaching training with the skills, confidence and knowledge to teach PE64.

119. Peter Bilsborough of the University of Stirling referred to the initial teaching training for PE for primary school teachers as being “a bit of a joke”, citing that some institutions offer only ten hours of training over the course of initial teaching training, i.e. around 2.5 hours per year65.

120. The Committee is also concerned about the lack of continuous professional development for PE for primary classroom teachers. Mr Bilsborough advised that urgent continuous professional development work needs to be done to encourage girls to engage in more physical activity and, by extension, this means that PE needs to focus on this too66.

121. Alan Armstrong from Learning Teaching Scotland stated—

“The more that a teacher understands an aspect of the curriculum, the better skilled they are at identifying young people’s abilities and how well they are coping. A continuing professional development issue has been picked up in the feedback on the draft experiences and outcomes for the curriculum for excellence. There is a need for continuing staff development to help teachers assess.”67

122. Chris Wood was of the view that more specialist PE teachers were needed in primary schools68. The Committee received evidence on the new post-graduate certificate in PE being offered at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Glasgow, which helps teachers to develop a specialism in physical education. The aim of this qualification is to extend teachers’ knowledge, understanding and teaching skills to enhance delivery of quality physical education learning experiences to all children in the 3 -14 age range.

123. At the University of Glasgow, 381 teachers are expected to have completed the post-graduate course by December 2009, with a further 276 teachers having completed the course at the University of Edinburgh by March 2009. Teachers from all 32 local authorities have participated in these courses69. There has been some variation in the respective take-up of places across the local authorities, relative to their population size. For example, Fife and Orkney have had very high representation, with East Lothian and Edinburgh having had comparatively lower representation.

East Renfrewshire: a case study

124. The Committee recognises that each issue highlighted above represents a barrier that needs to be overcome if the two hour target is to be attained. But it is important to note that none of these issues are particularly new – they were identified by the review group in 2003 and the action plan in 2004.

125. The Committee suspects that there may be a tendency among some local authorities to cite these issues as reasons why the two hour target cannot be met, as opposed to viewing these challenges as hurdles to be overcome. The experience of East Renfrewshire Council shows what can be achieved when a local authority adopts a ‘can do’ approach.

126. The impetus to achieve the target was the decision by East Renfrewshire Council to restructure its departments so that the culture, leisure and sports development functions were all incorporated into the education department. The next step appears to have been the issuing of a directive by the council’s Director of Education that the two hours target should be met. That decision meant that schools’ progress towards meeting the target was monitored and the Committee presumes that individual headteachers were held to account on the basis of this directive.

Primary schools

127. The Committee understands that the primary school estate is mixed in East Renfrewshire. Some schools have been redeveloped, meaning that there are good indoor and outdoor sports facilities. But other schools suffer from a lack of suitable indoor space as occurs in many primaries throughout the rest of the country – the most common problem being that there is only one hall to teach indoor PE in but that this hall also doubles up as the dining hall.

128. East Renfrewshire Council’s solution is that many PE lessons take place in the playground. According to Ian Pye, the Quality Improvement Officer, “some of the primary schools in East Renfrewshire are not of the standard that we would like, but the teachers are mandated to get on with it”.70

129. East Renfrewshire Council appears to have had the same challenges as elsewhere, with many primary school teachers not feeling they have the ability to deliver PE lessons. The council has sent some teachers on the University of Glasgow post-graduate PE course. It has also developed a programme around eight sports which supports the teachers not only in introducing particular sports, but also in helping to develop the skills that are associated with those sports. Furthermore, in conjunction with the University of Strathclyde, the council produced support materials including lesson plans and comprehensive training programmes.

130. It would appear to the Committee that East Renfrewshire Council has been both tough and tender—

“We give them [the primary school teachers] support in the form of curricular resources and training, but they still have to deliver two hours of PE, even though the facilities might be, if not substandard, not of the same standard as those in brand new schools.”71

131. According to Mr Pye, the result of this approach is that, since it was introduced in 2006, secondary school teachers have reported that levels of physical literacy among S1 pupils are far higher, meaning that the first term of PE at secondary school is not spent on delivering physical literacy lessons.

132. Finally at the primary level, the Committee notes that East Renfrewshire Council carries out a ‘skills acquisition and fitness level’ assessment at P6. For those children who are assessed as having performed below average, they are offered a place at a movement and skills club that takes place at lunchtime or after school.

Secondary schools

133. The principal, additional challenge at secondary is the crowded curriculum. In East Renfrewshire, the timetable was restructured in a way which led to additional periods being generated. This meant that all secondary pupils (and not just those taking PE as a certified subject) were given more PE than was the case previously. John Wilson, the Director for Education, advised that this restructuring had also enabled the council to save money (around £800,000), around half of which was then re-invested in recruiting extra PE teachers.

Learning the lessons from East Renfrewshire

134. The Committee was very impressed by East Renfrewshire Council’s approach to the teaching of PE. From the leadership of the Director of Education, what comes across is a sense of drive and clarity of purpose. Through a combination of firm leadership and extra support from council officers, coupled with dedicated professionalism on the part of teaching staff, East Renfrewshire Council has shown what can be achieved in a short timescale.

135. The Committee believes that East Renfrewshire should be used as a case study as to what can be achieved. The Committee is aware that East Renfrewshire Council is a compact local authority serving a reasonably small population which enjoys many socio-economic advantages over many other local authority areas. The Committee considers that these factors will be particularly beneficial when it comes to continuing the pathway into sport (these matters are considered later in the report). However the Committee does not consider that these factors apply to how PE is taught. In short, the Committee does not see why East Renfrewshire or a similar model could not be adopted elsewhere in Scotland. The Committee therefore recommends that the Scottish Government works with East Renfrewshire Council to ensure that their best practice is shared with other local authorities.

Primary school

136. The Committee realises that school sports facilities are not of a high standard everywhere in the country. That said, the Committee notes the positive comments made in the recent AGS report about the improving condition of the school estate. Where challenges are faced in delivering the physical education target due to poor facilities or equipment, primary school teachers need to be imaginative in their use of facilities. The experience in East Renfrewshire points to the potential for schools to make better use of their playgrounds and adopt more of a ‘can-do’ spirit to the teaching of PE than would appear to be the case in too many schools at the moment.

137. The formative work in physical literacy at nursery and primary is very important. The Committee is therefore attracted to the approach adopted in East Renfrewshire where a physical literacy assessment is carried out at P6. The Committee recommends that, at an appropriate age, a physical literacy assessment should be conducted for all pupils to ensure that, by the time children reach secondary school, they have the necessary skills to learn specific sports. The Committee also recommends that pupil report cards should refer to a pupil’s physical literacy skills.

138. A systemic issue that needs to be addressed is how PE is taught at primary level. The Committee welcomes the introduction of post-graduate courses in PE at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Glasgow. The establishment of PE specialist posts has certainly made a difference to how PE is taught at the primary level and the Scottish Government has provided several very encouraging examples of how PE specialist teachers are working with classroom teachers to deliver two hours of PE in places like Angus, Perth and Kinross and Dumfries and Galloway.

139. The Committee recommends that the Scottish Government monitors the success of these courses, in particular the uptake by individual local authorities relative to the gap between the two hour target and actual performance. This point again highlights the need for detailed reporting on individual schools’ PE performance so that accurate statistics can be compiled. The Committee also recommends that the Scottish Government consider expanding these courses to universities beyond the central belt to make it easier for teachers to participate from across the country.

140. The Committee remains concerned at the apparent lack of confidence that many classroom primary school teachers have in their ability to teach PE effectively. The Committee considers that there must be a link between this state of affairs and the low importance attached to PE in initial teaching training, inferred from the few number of hours given to it in the teacher training course.

141. The Committee welcomes the introduction of the post-graduate course in PE. There are encouraging signs of how PE specialists are being deployed in innovative ways across the country, including specialists supporting classroom teachers in delivering PE. The Committee considers that there is still a very real need for a general upskilling of all primary school classroom teachers in the teaching of PE.

Secondary school

142. The Committee considers that meeting the two hour target by August 2010 is challenging but realistic. The Committee considers that, at secondary level, educational authorities need to be prepared to take radical action to maximise the likelihood of the target being met. Such radical action may include the re-structuring of the school timetable, as happened in the case of East Renfrewshire.

All schools

143. The Committee recommends, that if any school is unable to meet this target by August 2010, the headteacher should be obliged to provide a report explaining why this is the case. This report should be made available to parents/guardians and submitted to the local authority Director of Education. The Committee recommends to the Scottish Government that, in these circumstances, the local authority Director of Education should be required to submit an action plan to the Cabinet Secretary for Education and the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, detailing how performance against the target will be improved in the local authority area.

Transition from PE to sport

144. In this section, the Committee has emphasized the vital role that it believes PE plays in providing the basic skills required for participation in sport and other physical activity. However, the Committee recognises there are many more opportunities for children and young people to participate in sport outside of the school curriculum. The sporting pathway from PE to these wider opportunities needs to be managed and planned. In the next section of the report, the Committee examines how the Active Schools programme is managing this process.

SECTION THREE: THE ACTIVE SCHOOLS PROGRAMME

Introduction

145. As described in the previous section, PE is a means to an end in that it gives children the skills, understanding and foundations to be able to live a physically active life. However, physical activity rates have been in decline and currently two thirds of adults and two thirds of teenage girls are inactive.72 It is therefore important that there is a link, or a continuum, between PE, as part of the school curriculum, and extra-curricular activity and sport that takes place outside of school.

146. The principal way that central government has sought to strengthen these links is through the Active Schools programme. In this section of the report, the Committee examines the strengths and weaknesses of this programme.

Active schools

Background

147. Active Schools is the term given to all schools in Scotland that provide pupils with sufficient opportunities to get active to the extent that it makes a positive contribution to their health. The programme was instituted in 2003. The fundamental aim of Active Schoolsis to offer children and young people the opportunity and motivation to adopt active, healthy lifestyles at school now and into adulthood including—

  • increasing physical activity levels amongst school aged children;
  • increasing levels of sport participation in both formal and informal community settings; and
  • increasing numbers of young people acting as sports leaders, coaches and volunteers in both school and community settings.73

148. There are currently 630 active schools co-ordinators (ASCs) and 32 active schools managers (ASMs) (one per local authority area). ASCs are responsible for establishing and sustaining a network of volunteers, coaches, leaders and teachers in a range of planned activities in both school and community settings.

149. Sportscotland takes the lead role in developing, supporting and monitoring the Active Schoolsprogramme and in working with local authorities. Sportscotland’s corporate plan for 2007-11 outlines specific actions for sportscotland to take in managing the programme, including improving the links between schools, clubs and the wider community and connecting children to sports governing bodies’ pathways. It also includes providing targeted activities to increase and promote opportunities for under-represented groups including girls, disabled children, black and minority ethnic children and more inactive children74

Active schools: performance

150. At the end of its first three years, the Active Schools programme was evaluated by Loughborough University. The evaluation was broadly positive, particularly in relation to evidence of increased amount of activity by primary school children and more introductions to a wide range of sporting opportunities.

151. The Committee received a range of views and opinions on the programme. The Minister for Public Health and Sport was of the view that ASCs are “the glue in the system that pulls all the bits together.”75 Charlie Raeburn felt that Active Schoolsis now a big part of the health and wellbeing jigsaw.76 However, John Beattie suggested that the programme had halted the decline rather than increased the current levels of sports participation—

“The co-ordinators were brought in to paper over the cracks in education, if you like. In my view, if they had not been brought in, sports participation would have plummeted even further”.77

152. Further evidence was received in the form of a research exercise undertaken by the University of Stirling for Stirling Council. Children in one school were asked who had encouraged them to join a sports club outside school. According to Peter Bilsborough of the University of Stirling, the most common answer was someone in their family, themselves or friends, with only 3 per cent of pupils in 2006, none in 2007 and 2 per cent in 2008 saying that they had been encouraged to join a sports club by ASCs.78 It should be pointed out, however, that Mr Bilsborough did say that he thought that ASCs were “doing wonderful jobs”.79

153. The Committee asked representatives from community clubs and national governing bodies what they thought of the programme. The evidence was that the bigger participation sports – most notably football, rugby union and golf – had the development infrastructure in place to approach local authorities direct but that smaller participation sports, like cricket, had benefited more from the introduction of the programme.80

154. Specific concerns to emerge about the Active Schoolsprogramme in evidence were—

Lack of clarity of role in some cases

155. The job description for an ASC has been defined by sportscotland as being to develop or cultivate opportunities for primary and secondary pupils to take part in physical activity, with sport being a part of this. In some areas, however, there appears to have been some blurring between the roles of ASC and PE teacher81. In evidence and informal discussions, it became apparent that there have been instances where the role of the ASC has been unclear, resulting in ASCs sometimes being used as ancillary PE teachers or as PE teachers’ assistants. The Committee is also aware of some examples of ASCs being used to coach sport. This is worrying given that the ASC role is neither a coaching role nor a teaching role.

156. The Committee heard that, in some areas, taster sessions in specific sports were offered for six or so weeks with a link or pathway to a continuing opportunity. There was, however, some criticism of ASCs delivering taster sessions that were not being backed up in the form of signposting to a community club or other sporting pathway82.

Security of tenure

157. The Active Schoolsprogramme is funded to 2011 and, understandably, concern was raised by individual ASCs about their security of tenure. ASC posts are temporary until 2011. The Committee heard about the negative impact this situation has had on staff morale and also the comparatively high level of staff turnover that has ensued83.

158. On funding, the Minister for Public Health and Sport believed that it was not possible to guarantee funding for the programme beyond the current spending period. But she went on to say—

“The value of the active schools co-ordinators has been proven […] it is unlikely that funding for the active schools programme will not continue after 2011, given the programme’s importance, the evidence to support it and the fact that we will be entering the run-up to the 2014 Commonwealth Games.84

159. The Committee notes that several local authorities, including East Renfrewshire, have taken the decision to employ ASCs on a permanent basis as a means of reducing staff uncertainty and turnover. The Committee recommends that if ASMs and ASCs posts are evaluated positively at a local level the local authority should give consideration to employing them on a permanent basis or at least on a rolling contract to reduce staff uncertainty and turnover.

Success at primary level; much less so at secondary

160. A consistent message (both from witnesses and through evaluation reports) was that the Active Schoolsprogramme has been more successful in the primary sector than it has in the secondary sector85. (It is interesting to note the success being achieved at primary level compared with the lack of progress in the teaching of PE at this level.) The Scottish Sports Association’s evidence was that ASCs at secondary level have far less time to carry out their role than is the case at the primary level. The Scottish Sports Association was disappointed by this position, given that a significant amount of young people drop out from sport in the first three years of secondary and that the need for maintaining participation of those young people with an interest in sport is at its greatest during these years.

Lack of integration with local authority strategies

161. Stewart Harris of sportscotland told the Committee that the programme has been most successful where it has clearly been integrated into a local authority’s wider sports strategy, as opposed to it having been “bolted-on”.86 In his view, the programme had been integrated well in over 20 local authorities with a smaller group lagging behind.87

Integration of Active Schoolsinto sports strategies

162. Members of the Committee saw for themselves how effective the Active Schoolsprogramme could be in terms of sports development when it operates as part of an integrated sports strategy. In both Stirling and East Renfrewshire, it was apparent that there was a high degree of co-ordination between the work of schools, sports development officers, local clubs and national governing bodies.

163. East Renfrewshire Council and Stirling Council both run a “cluster model” whereby ASCs/ASMs, sports development officers and teaching staff within a cluster devise a sport and physical activity plan. A cluster is typically based around a secondary school and its feeder primary schools.

164. In the case of East Renfrewshire Council, which has based its approach around eight sports that have good club infrastructure in the local authority area, there are also sport-specific forums which include the same key personnel plus representatives of local sports clubs and the relevant governing body. A plan is devised that addresses school/club links, coach education, capacity building within clubs and out-of-school-hours programmes.88

165. In East Renfrewshire, the result is that, in out-of-school-hours programmes alone, there are around 700 weekly coaching sessions, with 7600 attendances. This is separate from coaching in clubs.

166. The evidence from these two councils suggests that the real difficulty is not attracting children and young people to try out a sport; rather, it is maintaining their levels of interest.

167. Both East Renfrewshire Council and Stirling Council run a system of satellite clubs in their clusters. The idea behind a satellite club is that, for some children interested in a particular sport, the prospect of joining a full-blown sports club may be off-putting for whatever reason. The satellite club provides a ‘halfway house’, which allows young people to practise their skills in a more relaxed environment than might be the case in a sports club. Some young people will wish to progress into the club structure; others will be more content to remain in the satellite club.

168. For each of the eight sports included in East Renfrewshire Council’s Active8 programme, there are excellent links between the schools and community clubs, with the emphasis being on focusing the activity in satellite clubs which are fully supported by local clubs.

169. It is worth noting the scale of the success story that is being achieved in East Renfrewshire. Using football as an example, there is very comprehensive list of football programmes being offered by the SFA, including girls football, disability football and youth diversion programmes. In addition, there are currently around 180 teams in the East Renfrewshire Soccer Development Association league which runs on a Saturday for children aged from seven to eleven. Just under 1,800 children are involved each week.

170. The Committee recognises that East Renfrewshire is not representative of the whole of Scotland. Not only does it enjoy socio-economic advantages, but it also has a highly developed club structure, with an adult population that, generally speaking, is more likely to volunteer to assist in the running of clubs. It is also fair to say that children and young people in East Renfrewshire are more likely to be encouraged by their parents to participate in extra-curricular activities.

171. The Committee acknowledges that, to some extent, that particular local authority is ‘shooting at an open goal’ but this does not negate the excellence of the work being done by East Renfrewshire Council. It is uplifting to see the results that can be achieved when all parts of a local authority and other agencies work together to achieve a common goal.

Active schools: looking to the future

172. Overall, the Committee welcomes what has been achieved by the Active Schoolsprogramme. The Committee recognises that there is a role for the ASCs to be the ‘glue in the system’. That said, there is a mixed picture in terms of the hard evidence that proves the impact that the programme is having on activity levels generally; participation in extra-curricular physical activities and take-up in organised sport outside of school.

173. The Committee recognises, however, that the Active Schoolsprogramme cannot be held solely accountable for turning around a long-term decline in children’s and young people’s participation in physical activity and sport, given that there are so many socio-economic and cultural factors at play. But the Committee’s view is that it remains important to ascertain the extent of the positive impact that can be attributed to the programme.

174. It seems fairly likely that funding for the programme will continue beyond 2011. The Committee is also cogniscent of the imminent introduction of the Curriculum for Excellence and that some concern has been expressed that the focus of the programme may be diluted to reflect a wider healthy living agenda.

175. In the light of these developments, the Committee recommends to the Scottish Government that it should host a conference, involving all relevant parties (sportscotland, all local authorities and sports governing bodies), to reach agreement on how the programme will be taken forward to 2011 and beyond, specifically with a view to reaching agreement on the following matters—

  • the role of the ASC, in particular the relationship that the ASC should have with PE staff, the headteacher, and community sports clubs;
  • how the ASC and the ASM can best work with sports development officers and local community clubs to achieve better results in the transition from school to community club activity;
  • the extent to which the emphasis of Active Schools will change, if at all, as a result of the introduction of the Curriculum for Excellence; and
  • whether the focus of Active Schoolsshould shift to tackle areas where little or no progress has been made, in particular the engagement of children (and their parents) in the secondary 1 to 3 age range.


Footnotes:

1 Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee. Official Report, 14 January 2009, Col 1388.

2 NHS Health Scotland. Written submission to the Health and Sport Committee.

3 National Physical Activity Strategy Review Group. (2009) Five-year review of ‘Lets Make Scotland More Active’ – a strategy for physical activity. Scotland: NHS Health Scotland.Available at: http://www.healthscotland.com/uploads/documents/9159-1150-HS%20PA%205yr%20Review%20Final.pdf [Accessed 11 May 2009]

4 NHS Health Scotland. Written submission to the Health and Sport Committee.

5 In the UK, people with a body mass index between 25 and 30 are categorised as overweight, and those with an index above 30 are categorised as obese. People with a BMI of 40 or more are described as morbidly obese.

6Scottish Government. (2008) Healthy Eating, Active Living: An action plan to improve diet, increase physical activity and tackle obesity. Scotland: Scottish Government. Available at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2008/06/20155902/0 {Accessed 11 May 2009]

7 Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee. Official Report, 26 January 2009, Col 1462. Peter Bilsborough.

8 National Physical Activity Strategy Review Group. Written submission to the Health and Sport Committee.

9 Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee. Official Report, 26 March 2008, Col 724. Professor Fred Coulter.

10 Furthermore, research published on the legacy from the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens reported that the potential for a health promotion legacy had not been realised despite the fact that this had been prioritised by the organisers.

11Scottish Government. (2008) Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games Interim Plan. Scottish Government.Available at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/932/0075606.pdf [Accessed 11 May 2009].

12 Scottish Government. (2008) Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games Interim Plan. Scottish Government.Available at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/932/0075606.pdf [Accessed 11 May 2009].

13 Scottish Government. (2008) Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games Interim Plan. Scottish Government.Available at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/932/0075606.pdf [Accessed 11 May 2009].

14 Audit Scotland. (2008) A performance overview of sport in Scotland. Audit Scotland. Available at:
http://www.audit-scotland.gov.uk/docs/central/2008/nr_080429_sport_overview.pdf [Accessed 11 May 2009]

15 Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee. Official Report, 14 January 2009, Col 1385.

16 Scottish Executive. (2003) Let’s make Scotland more active: A strategy for physical activity. Scottish Government.Available at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2003/02/16324/17895 [Accessed 11 May 2009]

17 National Physical Activity Strategy Review Group. (2009) Five-year review of ‘Lets Make Scotland More Active’ – a strategy for physical activity.: NHS Health Scotland.Available at: http://www.healthscotland.com/uploads/
documents/9159-1150-HS%20PA%205yr%20Review%20Final.pdf
[Accessed 11 May 2009]

18 The definition of sport used by the Council of Europe

19 Scottish Government. Letter from the Minister for Schools and Skills to the Convener of the Health and Sport Committee dated 20 March 2009.

20 Scottish Government. Letter from the Minister for Schools and Skills to the Convener of the Health and Sport Committee dated 20 March 2009.

21 Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee. Official Report, 14 January 2009, Col1410.

22 Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee. Official Report, 25 February 2009, Col 1540.

23 Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee. Official Report, 25 February 2009, Col 1541. Brent Deans.

24 Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee. Official Report, 25 February 2009, Col 1541. Brent Deans.

25 Scottish Sports Association. Written submission to the Health and Sport Committee, 21 November 2008.

26 Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee. Official Report, 21 January 2009, Col 1428.

27 Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee, Official Report, 14 January 2009, Col 1390.

28 Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee, Official Report, 14 January 2009, Col 1388.

29 Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee, Official Report, 21 January 2009, Col 1430.

30 Scottish Executive. (2004) Report of the review group on physical education. Scottish Executive.Available at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2004/06/19466/38538 [Accessed 11 May 2009]

31 Scottish Sports Association. Written submission to the Health and Sport Committee, 21 November 2008.

32 Scottish Sports Council. (1998) Sport 21: Nothing left to chance Available at: http://www.sportdevelopment.info/attachments/109_sport21_1998.pdf [Accessed 11 May 2009].

33 Scottish Sports Council. (1998) Sport 21: Nothing left to chance Available at: http://www.sportdevelopment.info/attachments/109_sport21_1998.pdf [Accessed 11 May 2009].

34 sportscotland. (2003) Sport 21 2003-2007: The National Strategy for Sport. Available at http://www.sportscotland.org.uk/ChannelNavigation/Resource+Library/Publications/Sport21.htm [Accessed 11 May 2009]

35 Scottish Executive (16 January 2006) Physical education in schools news release. Available at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/News/Releases/2006/01/16121155 [Accessed 11 May 2009]

36 Audit Scotland. (2008) A performance overview of sport in Scotland. Audit Scotland. Available at:
http://www.audit-scotland.gov.uk/docs/central/2008/nr_080429_sport_overview.pdf [Accessed 11 May 2009]

37 Audit Scotland. (2008) A performance overview of sport in Scotland. Audit Scotland. Available at:
http://www.audit-scotland.gov.uk/docs/central/2008/nr_080429_sport_overview.pdf [Accessed 11 May 2009]

38 Scottish Government. Letter from Director-General Health and Chief Executive NHS Scotland to Convener of the Audit Committee dated September 2008.

39 HM Inspectorate of Education for Scotland (HMIE). Written submission to the Health and Sport Committee, 13 February 2009.

40 School Leaders Scotland. Written submission to the Health and Sport Committee.

41 Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee, Official Report, 4 March 2009, Col 1591.

42 Scottish Government. Letter from the Minister for Schools and Skills to the Convener of the Health and Sport Committee dated 20 March 2009.

43 City of Edinburgh Council statistics, as reported in the Edinburgh Evening News (23 March 2009) City Schools still off the pace for PE.

44 Information provided by WHEC staff.

45 Scottish Sport Association. Written submission to the Health and Sport Committee, 21 November 2008.

46 Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee. Official Report, 25 February 2009 Col 1539.

47 Scottish Government. Letter from Director-General Health and Chief Executive NHS Scotland to Convener of the Audit Committee dated September 2008.

48 Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee. Official Report, 21 January 2009 Col 1422.

49 HMIE. Written submission to the Health and Sport Committee. 13 February 2009.

50 HMIE. Written submission to the Health and Sport Committee. 13 February 2009.

51 Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee. Official Report, 11 March 2009 Col 1634-1635.

52 HMIE. Written submission to the Health and Sport Committee. 31 March 2009.

53 Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee. Official Report, 25 February 2009, Col 1540.

54 Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee. Official Report, 11 March 2009, Col 1635.

55 Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee. Official Report, 11 March 2009, Col 1635.

56 Scottish Parliament, Official Report, Written Answers, 19 March 2009; S3W-21602.

57 Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee. Official Report, 26 January 2009, Col 1480.

58 Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee. Official Report, 14 January 2009, Col 1417.

59 Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee. Official Report, 4 March 2009, Col 1603.

60 Scottish Government. (2009) Curriculum for excellence: health and wellbeing experiences and outcomes. Scottish Government. Available at: http://www.ltscotland.org.uk/Images/health_wellbeing_experiences
_outcomes_tcm4-540031.pdf
[Accessed 11 May 2009]

61 Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee. Official Report, 21 January 2009 Col 1438.

62 Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee. Official Report, 21 January 2009 Col 1436.

63 Audit Scotland (2008) Improving the school estate. Available at: http://www.audit-scotland.gov.uk/docs/central/2007/nr_080320_school_estate.pdf [Accessed 11 May 2009]

64 Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee. Official Report, 21 January 2009, Col 1429.

65 Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee. Official Report, 26 January 2009, Col 1456.

66 Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee. Official Report, 26 January 2009, Col 1456.

67 Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee. Official Report, 21 January 2009, Col 1428.

68 Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee. Official Report, 21 January 2009 Col 1448.

69 Scottish Government. Written evidence to Health and Sport Committee, 20 March 2009.

70 Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee. Official Report, 4 March 2009, Col 1619.

71 Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee. Official Report, 4 March 2009, Col 1619.

72 Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee. Official Report, 14 January 2009, Col 1388.

73 Sportscotland. Active schools network: aims, objectives, outcomes and delivery. Sportscotland. Available at: http://www.sportscotland.org.uk/ChannelNavigation/Topics/TopicNavigation/Active+Schools/
Aims+objectives+outcomes+and+delivery/
[Accessed 11 May 2009]

74 Sportscotland (2007) Corporate plan for 2007-11 Available at: http://www.sportscotland.org.uk/NR/rdonlyres/CB4B356B-E043-45FB-8107-FD7E45D447AC/0/sportscotlandCorporatePlan20072011.pdf [Accessed 11 May 2009]

75 Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee. Official Report, 11 March 2009, Col 1645.

76 Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee. Official Report, 14 January 2009, Col 1399.

77 Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee. Official Report, 14 January 2009, Col1398-1399.

78 Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee. Official Report, 26 January 2009, Col 1470..

79 Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee. Official Report, 26 January 2009, Col 1470.

80 Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee. Official Report, 25 February 2009.

81 Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee. Official Report 21 January 2009, Col 1433-1434.

82 Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee. Official Report, 21 January 2009, Col 1432-1433.

83Informal meeting between members and active schools co-ordinators, active school managers and sportscotland officials.

84 Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee. Official Report, 11 March 2009, Col 1646.

85 Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee. Official Report, 14 January 2009, Col 1400.

86 Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee. Official Report, 26 January 2009, Col 1479.

87 Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee. Official Report, 26 January 2009, Col 1482.

88 Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee. Official Report, 4 March 2009, Col 1619.

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