Liz Smith: Holyrood can do so much more

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THERE will rarely be a better time to inspire our children, as they marvel at the talents of the likes of Edinburgh’s Sir Chris Hoy.

That is why I agree with Allan Wells when he says the Olympics can, and should, act as a catalyst to improve physical activity in young people.

The London Olympics and the Glasgow Commonwealth Games are very much on everyone’s mind.

Encouraging a competitive drive is important. Learning that streak in sport from a young age is exactly how those such as Allan Wells and Chris Hoy reached the heights they did.

But apart from that, these sporting experiences enrich the lives of the young people involved. They provide them with self-discipline, an understanding of the importance of team spirit and they help build confidence and self-esteem.

These are all very important skills for anyone, and why I believe the Scottish Government should be doing more – much more – to improve the opportunities for sport in all our schools and local communities.

We know that an active life brings enormous health benefits and that it can boost classroom performance.

A little progress was made last year, but we still have far too many pupils, in both primary and secondary schools, who are not getting the two hours of quality PE a week, which the SNP government promised.

That promise was made in 2007 and it remains very concerning that too many youngsters are losing out.

We have to put that right.

At school, as a pupil, I was lucky to be involved in playing lots of sport. As a teacher, I was also lucky to be involved in coaching lots of sport.

Now, as a politician, I am lucky to meet a number of young people who are involved in various sports and who have done well in local and national competitions.

But there are not enough young people who get the right opportunities, or who continue with sport on a regular basis.

Scotland is passionate about sport so let’s give every Scottish youngster a better sporting chance.

• Liz Smith is the Scottish Conservative education spokeswoman and a former teacher at George Watson’s College, Edinburgh