PE Sport and Physical Activity in Scotland and beyond

Sports Academies in Scotland

Posted by drilly on August 21, 2007

“SCOTLAND needs to set up six elite sports academies to train the medal winners of the future, the head of a government-funded think tank said last night.”

An interesting article in the Scotland on Sunday about a report presented to the Executive that outlines plans, which would see sport academies established on the site of existing schools in six major conurbations across the country.

A second article in the same paper provides a further insight.

Graham Watson from the Scottish Institute of SportIf we study the British medal winners, they come overwhelmingly from private schools. ” This threw up a couple of questions in my mind is the same true of Scottish medal winners and are we talking about all elite competitions and sports or just the Olympics and Commonwealth games? However further light is shed on this in the second article

It’s an anomaly that exists, that a disproportionate number of kids from private schools represent national teams and win medals at major championships. It’s a very complicated issue, because it’s also to do with the support network around the athlete, and the time and effort that families put in, which is something that maybe isn’t consistent across the [social] spectrum. But sports schools would provide that network, and so help to maximise every youngster’s opportunities.”

The report studied how sports schools work in 10 other countries: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Singapore and Sweden.

“What we found in other countries is that the sports schools are not ad hoc; they really do take seriously the need to bring forward sport in line with education.”

One of the problems in Scotland at the moment is that for young people it tends to be one or the other – you can be good at sport or the academic side. We need to allow talented young people to maximise their talent at sport as well as education, and it’s pretty clear that other countries are doing that and getting positive results.”

One would hope that that the Curriculum for Excellence philosophy that pupils are provided with the opportunities to develop their talents as part of their education, would provide some future scope for pupils to develop sporting talent. However I would tend to agree with Watson that in a large number of educational establishments the whole area of sport and physical education is not taken seriously and I would suggest that funding would be limited in mainstream schools. Therefore it is unlikely to happen.

There are however already some examples in Scotland which Watson referred to as the adhoc approach which currently exists. The School of sport at Bellahouston Academy, also Edinburgh City, West Lothian and the Borders are introducing smaller scale Sport Academy concepts but not based in a specific building.

It is the Integrated school of sport model such as exists at Bellahouston which Watson favours extending around the country – mixing sport and mainstream pupils – is the way to go. “The evidence we’ve gathered suggests that it’s better to integrate as much as possible. Our recommendation would be that you identify an existing facility and build the infrastructure around that. That would seem the most sensible and cost-efficient way to go about it.”

For me was one of the most interesting features of the report indicated that pupils who were given additional time to pursue sport on the whole did not suffer academically and indeed their academic achievement was higher than the national average of their respective country of origin.

In addition to fostering sport, the specialist schools were also found to produce better academic results. The only country which had poorer results than mainstream schools was France, where the sport/study balance is weighted heavily in favour of sport, with 24 hours of lessons and 20 hours’ training. However, in all the rest of the examples academic achievement among sports pupils is higher than the national average.

On my secondment as I travel round the country I am frequently met with same argument that; we are unable to increase the time allocated to PE as we need to improve attainment if we take time from other subjects attainment will suffer. This report and indeed a number of other pieces of research from around the world contradict this assumption held by many in education.

2hrs per week of quality PE, for all pupils by 2008, is the recommendation in Scotland. Is this too much to ask schools in Scotland to provide? I don’t thinks so especially when you see our counterparts in England now striving to provide 4 hrs of PE and school sport.

Should we have Sport Academies to nurture our elite talent? In my opinion yes but we must not forget about the vast majority of pupils who will not become elite performers by extending the provision and quality of PE, sport and physical activity opportunities for them within mainstream education.

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