By Christine Lavelle and Amanda MacMillan
A SECONDARY school in West Lothian has become one of the first in Scotland to make a PE qualification compulsory in a bid to meet national targets.
All 164 second year pupils at Broxburn Academy – where Standard Grades are taken over three years – have started working towards the qualification.
The national target for ‘high quality’ PE is two hours a week, and before the change pupils were doing two 50-minute periods – with teachers struggling to find ways to introduce any more.
All S2 pupils at the academy now have a double period of the subject, with one hour and 40 minutes dedicated to the physical activities and another 50 minutes of theory-based work.
The school understands that meeting the national target can also include educating youngsters about health and well-being, along with practical learning.
Peter Reid, head teacher at Broxburn Academy, said that change has been welcomed by staff and parents at the 904-pupil school.
Mr Reid believes that the move will lead to improved attainment and an increase in youngsters taking up extra-curricular sports.
He said: “This is a school where we have lots of extra-curricular activities on the go.
“It’s in everybody’s interests to have a healthy population and I think two hours of PE per week is a reasonable target.
“What we are hoping is that kids will get their Standard Grades and will then continue to do PE after that.
“They might do it recreationally or they might do it to get another qualification such as Intermediate level or Duke of Edinburgh Awards.”
The move has been backed by senior school pupils who had never enjoyed PE before, even admitting to bringing in forged sick notes to get out of it.
Monica Gopal, a pupil in S5, said she would have been more enthusiastic about participating in PE if she had been working towards a certificate.
But, the school have stressed that the move will not remove choice, as pupils will now take nine standard grades rather than the usual eight.
Achieving the Scottish Government target of two hours of PE per week has been a headache for schools and education authorities across the country.
Mr Reid added: “In most schools it would be common to have core, compulsory, non-certificated PE up until fourth year, and over the last ten years there’s been pressure to increase that to sixth year.
“The approach that we have adopted might not be the solution for everybody.”
Doug Folan, chairman of the Association for Physical Education Scotland, said the school’s idea was an “imaginative solution” but did not think they would reach the target unless the theory class included some kind of physical activity.
John Beattie, who chaired the physical activity task force in 2002, which set out a 20-year plan to improve the nation’s health also said Broxburn Academy’s plan was “great news”, but agreed that without two full hours of PE, they would not meet the minimum requirement.
To make the system work, the former Scotland Rugby international said larger authorities such as Glasgow and Edinburgh should follow the example set by smaller councils like West Lothian.
Eileen Prior, executive director of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, said the move would be welcomed by most parents, but a small minority – mainly those whose children dislike PE – would raise concerns.