Schools get PE cash boost as sport on the rise

From left, sisters Mary, Alice and Kathleen Hargest. Picture: Ian Rutherford
From left, sisters Mary, Alice and Kathleen Hargest. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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SCHOOL gym facilities are in line for a six-figure cash injection on the back of figures which show an increase in the number of kids doing sport to combat an obesity and diabetes epidemic.

Gym halls across the Capital will be upgraded thanks to the £243,000 spend, as education chiefs refused to rule out taking on more PE teachers, after the “corner turning” statistics revealed Edinburgh is ahead of a Scotland-wide trend on the uptake of physical education.

The boom in PE will help stave off a feared obesity and diabetes epidemic and has been hailed by retiring boxing champ Alex Arthur, who said the cash will help “play a massive part in dealing with the general health of kids”.

The former British, Commonwealth and WBO super featherweight title holder said: “It will breed more enthusiasm and encourage them to burn more energy when they are outside of school as well. It’s the best thing for the future of our youngsters.”

His verdict comes as the city makes impressive progress towards meeting a Scottish Government commitment that every pupil will benefit from at least two hours of PE in primary school each week, and two periods, or 100 minutes, in S1 to S4.

According to the latest figures, 89 per cent of primaries in Edinburgh now offer the recommended amount of PE – up ten per cent on last year – with 83 per cent of secondaries also making the grade.

And we can exclusively reveal that education chiefs have not ruled out drafting in extra teachers to ensure all Edinburgh schools hit the target by June next year.

Education leader Councillor Paul Godzik said: “By investing in new sports halls, fitness rooms and all-weather pitches, and working with local sports clubs, we can promote the vast range of sporting and fitness activities that exist and ensure we have a healthier Edinburgh.

“Continuing support from headteachers and staff with a clear focus on how PE is being delivered is vital to ensuring our children receive not just the required amount of hours but improved quality.”

City leaders said providing more PE in schools had been a “key priority” and that specialist development officers were helping to boost provision at primaries and secondaries across the Capital.

They revealed the city’s special school sector had also enjoyed a jump in participation, with 89 per cent of secondaries hitting government targets.

Gordon Murray, curricular leader in PE at St Augustine’s High, which offers pupils three 50-minute periods a week, said: “We provide a much wider range of activities because pupils have more time in the department now.”

But critics said there were still too many schools not offering enough PE.

Green MSP Alison Johnstone said: “It’s not good enough that many of our primary schools don’t provide at least two hours of PE a week. I would like there to be a focus on having much more time and a specific approach to engaging young women.”