- The Deputy Presiding Officer (Elaine Smith):
The next item of business is a debate on motion S4M-08546, in the name of Shona Robison, on the youth sport strategy.
- The Minister for Commonwealth Games and Sport (Shona Robison):
I am delighted to address Parliament on “Giving children and young people a sporting chance: a draft Strategy for Scotland”, which we published yesterday.
Earlier, we had a motion of condolence for Nelson Mandela. As on so many matters, his words on sport are uplifting:
“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire, it has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope, where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than Governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination.”
We all recognise the importance of being physically active, and we know that sport is just one part of an active life, but given the legacy that will come from Scotland’s hosting the Commonwealth games and the Ryder cup next year, there is no better time to celebrate our successes in youth sport and to consider what more needs to be done. It was clear from June’s debate on youth sport that members have their own ideas about that, but I am sure that members agree that the strategy should not be full of things that adults think are important. The strategy should be not only for but by children and young people, which is why we started by asking the young people’s sport panel for their views. What its members told us has shaped the document that members have before them, including the title, which was the panel’s suggestion. Members of the panel are in the gallery today; I thank them very much for their input.
The panel told us that they want only the best for children and young people in Scotland. They want opportunities that ignite and excite young people to get involved and stay involved. Young people’s needs can be summarised as follows: “Give us great opportunities, supported by great people, delivered in great places and given a higher profile.”
- Tavish Scott (Shetland Islands) (LD):
I agree with the sports minister about the principle of giving young people opportunities. Does she recognise that in outlying areas an argument is being made about the need to address transport costs? The draft strategy does not particularly address the issue, as I read it. Will she ensure that the final version covers that point?
- Shona Robison:
I am happy to take that point on board and to give it further consideration.
The draft strategy sets out in some detail what we are doing, collectively, and what more might be done, in the four areas that I set out. I cannot do justice to all the detail in this speech, but I will spend a little time on each area.
The young people’s sport panel told us that they want opportunities to be involved in sport in a range of ways—at school, out of school, in clubs and groups, and informally with their friends and families. We think that the position is already strong. There are opportunities to try sports through physical education, active schools and programmes that local authorities and leisure trusts provide, as well as through sports’ governing bodies and clubs, the voluntary sector landscape of youth and community organisations and in higher and further education. There are opportunities, through schools, to take part in events and competitions such as the Sainsbury’s school games and the Commonwealth youth games. There are opportunities to develop leadership skills through programmes such as youth legacy ambassadors, young ambassadors and lead 2014.
However we can build on that. On PE, we are making good progress, with 89 per cent of schools delivering on the PE target. That is up from just under 10 per cent in 2004-05, so there has been almost a complete reversal of the position then, when 90 per cent of schools did not achieve the target. There is more to be done, which is why I announced yesterday that continued investment of £5.8 million over 2014-15 and 2015-16 will be provided through the partnership between Education Scotland and sportscotland to help local authorities to maintain the quantity and, which is also important, to improve the quality of PE provision in schools.
- Patricia Ferguson (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (Lab):
I am sure that the minister is aware, in presenting those statistics, that when the Parliament was established very few new PE teachers were being recruited. I think that something like nine new PE teachers were recruited in 2003-04, and by 2004-05 the figure had gone up to 80. That increase clearly feeds into the statistics on activity and PE, in particular, and is something that we should all welcome.
- Shona Robison:
I am sure that that is true, to some extent. What is also true is that the priority that is given to PE, particularly in the primary sector, is now far more prominent. That has taken a lot of hard work by front-line professionals. Head teachers have shown leadership and classroom teachers have been skilled up so that they can make an important contribution to PE.
On that point, we will reject the Conservative amendment because it fails to recognise the essential role of the primary school classroom teacher in delivering PE. Without classroom teachers developing such skills, we would not have made such progress on the quantity and quality of PE.
- Liz Smith (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con):
Will the minister give way?
- Shona Robison:
I will do so in a second. If we were to remove that resource, the quantity and quality of PE that children in primary schools get would be drastically reduced. I am sure that that is not what Liz Smith wants.
- Liz Smith:
I thank the minister for that comment. Quality is extremely important. Parents want PE to be provided by qualified PE instructors. When I made a freedom of information request recently, the number of councils that did not hold the relevant information was extremely surprising.
- Shona Robison:
PE specialists have an important role to play, particularly in supporting classroom teachers and in creating links between secondary schools and their feeder primaries, but we cannot underestimate the role of the classroom teacher. The classroom teacher has always been important in delivery of PE. What is new is that we are upskilling that workforce and ensuring that its members have the necessary confidence when they deliver PE. Without that resource, we would not get anywhere near the target of delivering two hours of PE a week. We must recognise that that is an important resource.
I am conscious of time, and I want to move on to other ways in which we will build on the work that has been done. Although school sport competition is only a small part of the strategy, it is an important part of it. We feel that more can be done on the quality of school sport competition. Sportscotland will learn from and roll out the current pilot activity on intra-school and inter-school sport competition to drive up the number of opportunities that exist for young people to take part in good-quality competition. On opportunities for children and young people to lead, sportscotland will work to ensure that young people are an integral part of the management team of every community sport hub.
It is, of course, crucial that all children and young people have the opportunity to take part in sport. The PE disability inclusion training programme, which is provided through Scottish Disability Sport, is giving up to 1,000 teachers the knowledge, skills and experience to include disabled young people fully in quality PE and sports provision by 2014. I know that that is an issue that Patricia Ferguson has mentioned in her correspondence to me about the strategy.
In addition, a range of valuable existing programmes reach out to those who have particular needs, such as the active girls and street soccer schemes, jump2it and the Co-operative young volunteer programme. Community sport hubs provide an opportunity to reach out to young people in their communities, and sportscotland will work alongside the Robertson Trust to develop and support stronger youth work approaches in community sport hubs. That will involve reaching out to young people who do not take part in sport at the moment, and for whom the school environment is perhaps challenging.
Notwithstanding all that, I want to consider whether we are doing all that we can to ensure that opportunities are inclusive and engaging, and especially that we get views directly from children and young people. We and sportscotland are working closely with representative bodies for children and young people, including Young Scot, Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, and the Children’s Parliament to ensure that we get the views of those who already participate in sport and—importantly—of those who do not.
Day in and day out, and week after week, vast numbers of teachers, volunteers, parents and coaches give of their time, energy and commitment to encourage children and young people to enjoy sport. In recent years, an enhanced effort has been made to support those who work with children and young people to develop more child-centred behaviours. That has included provision of enhanced training about safeguarding, disability inclusion and protecting children and young people, and the introduction of positive coaching Scotland, which is a programme that aims to drive culture change in the behaviours of key influencers in young people’s lives, including parents, teachers and coaches.
Although we are fortunate to have a huge and talented resource of coaches and volunteers, we can build more on those foundations. To do that, sportscotland will continue its commitment to the positive coaching Scotland programme, it will develop and deliver a new club leaders training programme, and it will deliver a new multiskill coach training programme and qualification.
In recent years, Scotland has seen a transformation in the capital infrastructure for sport. The scale of new national, regional and local facilities for sport, combined with the school estate modernisation programme, means that we have never been as well served by great sports facilities across Scotland as we are now.
However, it is important that, as well as having those fantastic facilities, the school estate is open at local level. By March 2018, the £1.25 billion schools for the future programme will see the construction of 67 new schools for more than 46,000 pupils. In our debate on the subject in June, Tavish Scott highlighted his concerns in relation to sportscotland’s involvement in the design of new schools. To ensure the best possible outcomes, the Scottish Government will facilitate sportscotland’s earlier and continuing involvement in the design of new schools. That will be delivered within the Scottish Government’s school building programme. At the same time, sportscotland will use its research on the school estate as a basis for discussing with local authorities and their partners improvements to the programming of community sport hub activity in schools.
The young people’s sport panel is keen that a higher profile be given to young people’s involvement in sport. I have asked the panel to develop proposals on how that can happen. I am confident that it will, if its contributions to date are anything to go by, embrace the opportunity and provide us with some comprehensive and creative ideas.
That the Parliament acknowledges the important role that sport plays in the lives of children and young people by providing them with skills and confidence now and for later life; recognises the potential of youth sport in improving physical and mental wellbeing, competences for work and establishing sporting success in Scotland; recognises that young people have been directly involved in the development of the draft youth strategy, and agrees that this is an important step in delivering a lasting legacy in 2014 and beyond.
- Patricia Ferguson (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (Lab):
I am pleased to speak in the debate. For reasons that will become clear later, I am also pleased that the minister chose the quotation that she did from Nelson Mandela. I will come back to that near the end of my speech, but perhaps it would be appropriate if I, too, cite Nelson Mandela on sport. He famously said that sport reaches
“areas far beyond the reach of politicians.”
Perhaps that is something that we should all remember.
I record my thanks to the minister for bringing the debate to the chamber at this stage in the development of the strategy. I have to say that, at the moment, the strategy needs a little bit more meat on its bones. I hope that today’s short debate can influence its final content, although I suspect that there will be many areas that we will not be able to cover in the allotted time. Perhaps we will have the opportunity to come back to it on another occasion.
I acknowledge the involvement of the young people’s sport panel and congratulate it on its efforts and ambition. It has identified some important areas of work and provided a clear focus for the strategy, which is welcome.
However, a number of challenges remain at the heart of the debate. How do we reach the young people who are not involved in sport or who are not physically active? Where is the money that will be needed to underpin the strategy? Can the strategy’s ambitions be achieved when we have not reached the targets for PE, as the Conservative amendment highlights?
There is also an issue about quality. I, for one, do not mind if the people who teach PE at primary school are properly trained primary school teachers, but I would not want it to be left to the luck of the draw. That is at the nub of the Conservative amendment.
- Shona Robison:
I welcome Patricia Ferguson’s comments on the role of classroom teachers. Does she not recognise the huge progress that has been made towards all schools achieving the target? The latest figures show 89 per cent, with progress happening apace for the remaining schools. Surely she recognises that that represents progress and work by many people.
- Patricia Ferguson:
Progress is always to be welcomed, but we must recognise the challenges that remain. We would be doing the young people about whom we are talking a huge disservice if we did not acknowledge those challenges. Of course, at the same time, there is an overall decline in physical activity, as Scottish Labour has noted in its amendment.
A useful starting point would be to ensure that all young people are physically literate before they leave primary school and that primary school PE concentrates on supporting them to enable them to run, jump, throw, catch and swim with confidence. The optimum age for that seems to be between about eight and 12, so primary school time coincides with the most crucial period for that development. That is incredibly important, because without those core skills young people will struggle to progress whereas, with them, they will be equipped to develop in the sport or sports of their choice.
The involvement of teachers and education policy makers—including the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning—is vital to that agenda. I hope that the minister will assure us that such a commitment exists. I note that sportscotland has reported that many schools are now well equipped to take forward the agenda—which is welcome—but that some serious challenges remain.
If we really want to change the culture and increase the number of young people who are involved in sport, we have to invest in it. I hope that the minister’s colleagues in health, education and justice will contribute financially from their departmental budgets.
The Scottish Labour amendment draws attention to the decrease in physical activity that has occurred in recent years. We recognise not only that that is a complex matter for the health and wellbeing of our nation, but that it is a serious one that needs to be addressed by the combined efforts of Government departments. Similarly, and in recognition of the transformational nature of sport in relation to community cohesion, the justice department must bring its resources, in terms of diversion and cashback for communities moneys.
There seems to be a particular problem with the level of young people’s involvement in sport after transitional times in their lives, when they move from primary to secondary school and from secondary school to further and higher education or employment. We need to find a way to encourage them to remain involved. We must ensure that there is a pathway for them to find the club, gym or track that will allow them seamlessly to continue their involvement, and to progress to the limits of their ambition. Active schools are very important in the transition between schools, which is a transition not only educationally but in terms of sport and activity. One can complement the other.
The minister knows of my concern that young people who have disabilities should have as many opportunities as their peers who do not have disabilities. I was pleased to note that the draft strategy mentions Scottish Disability Sport’s inclusion training, but it could go further. I hope that the final version of the strategy will acknowledge the additional benefits of physical activity to young people who have disabilities and will ensure that that is recognised and supported. As I have mentioned previously in debate, I hope, too, that the additional cost of adapted equipment is recognised.
We read that young people want to see their hard work and dedication respected, recognised and rewarded. They are quite right to highlight that. For that reason, I welcome the school sports awards, which all schools will strive to achieve.
However, perhaps we could go further. As the minister said in opening, earlier today we celebrated the life of Nelson Mandela. I suggest that there might be a tangible way in which we could recognise his achievement, his legacy and Scotland’s respect for him. As we know, Nelson Mandela was a keen boxer in his youth and was someone who truly understood the value of sport and the importance of the symbolism that often accompanies it. I will repeat the quotation that the minister gave; it bears repeating. In Monaco in 2000, Nelson Mandela spoke of the transformational nature of sport when he said:
“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire, it has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand.”
Perhaps the minister would consider establishing in the name of Nelson Mandela a scholarship fund to help the sporting or academic achievement of young people from low-income backgrounds or people who have shown a real commitment to using sport to help to break down barriers. I hope that she will at least consider the idea and recognise that sport can help to encourage people to work together for the good of their community.
The debate is all too brief, but I sincerely hope that it will provide an appropriate launch pad for the consultation on the youth sports strategy.
I move amendment S4M-08546.2, to insert at end:
“; voices concern at the findings of the Scottish Health Survey 2012, which highlighted that the proportion of children meeting physical activity guidelines ‘has not changed significantly since 2008’ and that, while children’s participation in sport and exercise increased between 1998 and 2009, levels have been declining since; believes in the importance of promoting inclusion and solidarity through sport and physical activity, and believes that the Youth Sport Strategy should address these issues”.
- Liz Smith (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con):
I thank the minister for writing to the relevant spokesmen in the parties back in October to ask us to give some input. I congratulate the young people who have been involved in the draft strategy. As the minister said, it is very important that it is the young people in the front line who help to develop the strategy rather than simply politicians.
I think that I am right in saying that it has been six years since Scotland’s sporting landscape was last thoroughly reviewed. Given what we have to look forward to next year in the context of the Ryder cup and the Commonwealth games, it makes sense to take stock of what still needs to be addressed. Notwithstanding some very good progress, there are still some key concerns.
I turn to the Conservative amendment. I think that I am right in saying that, in the 2007 Scottish National Party manifesto, the strong commitment was for two hours a week from specialist physical education teachers. That is one reason why it is extremely important.
- Shona Robison:
In the 2011 manifesto, we recognised that the classroom teacher is a key resource in delivering PE. I absolutely acknowledge that now. I hope that Liz Smith will do so as well, as Patricia Ferguson did earlier.
- Liz Smith:
Absolutely. I think that the two are complementary. The fact remains that specialist PE teachers were mentioned in the SNP manifesto. There must have been a specific, important reason for that, so we need to take it forward.
I repeat what I said about the FOI request. There is concern that not enough local authorities are aware of those who hold the relevant qualifications and where they are teaching. We could perhaps do a little bit more work with the General Teaching Council for Scotland to ensure that we have a good record of just who holds the relevant qualifications.
Tavish Scott raised an important point—although I see that he is no longer in the chamber—about the fact that there are obviously some serious cost issues for those who come from rural communities. Very good progress has been made in some such areas, but we need to do more to ensure that those who come from a very rural background have good access to facilities and can take part in as much sport as is possible.
I said in my response to the minister back in October that I thought that we could do more to help build bridges between the private sector and the state sector. There are some excellent initiatives in state schools and in private schools, many of which have excellent sporting facilities. It is important that we try to use those facilities as much as we possibly can, to the benefit of all children. We should consider the point that Patricia Ferguson just made about scholarships, whether in the name of Nelson Mandela or other international and sporting figures, because a person’s parents’ income or where they come from should not determine whether their options for school sport are available or closed off. I welcome the suggestion that was made.
There is a need to ensure that there is a good coherent strategy between central Government and local government. This morning, the Education and Culture Committee heard loud and clear from a group of outdoor education specialists that they are concerned that there is not a coherent strategy and that there is a bit of a disconnect between central Government and local government. I noticed that that was mentioned in the strategy, but perhaps we need to think a bit more about how the Scottish Government can create a better system in that regard.
As somebody who over time has held various sports coaching qualifications, I am acutely aware of the input that is provided by volunteers. If it were not for those volunteers, far fewer children would have the benefit of sport. We have done a lot to increase the number of volunteers, but we have to be mindful of the fact that there are still concerns, particularly in some sports, that people cannot volunteer because of the bureaucracy that goes with it. Volunteering has perhaps been hindered by the fact that bureaucracy gets in the way.
I very much look forward to the publication of the final youth sport strategy; 2014 is shaping up to be a fantastic year for sport and it presents Scotland with a terrific opportunity, but only if we can take the very strong message back from the young people who are in the gallery and their peers and address a lot of the issues that have been raised.
I move amendment S4M-08546.1, to insert at end:
“, and urges the Scottish Government to place additional focus on ensuring that all primary school children will receive two hours of PE per week delivered by a qualified PE instructor”.
- Stewart Maxwell (West Scotland) (SNP):
I welcome the launch of the Scottish Government’s draft strategy on youth sport and the opportunity to take part in today’s debate. It is appropriate that the Scottish Government has chosen to launch the consultation on the draft strategy at a time when we are also preparing for the Glasgow Commonwealth games and, of course, the Ryder cup in 2014. The Commonwealth games in particular will be a stimulus for various economic, sporting and health initiatives, but it is important to ensure that those initiatives leave lasting benefits after the exciting events of next year have ended.
As the Government motion correctly points out, the potential benefits of sport are far reaching and any current investment in youth sport will manifest itself in many positive outcomes in years to come, particularly, I hope, for the most disadvantaged in our society.
As other members have mentioned, and as I am sure that others who have yet to speak will mention, sport has benefits that reach well beyond sport itself: from building the confidence of a young person to developing social skills as part of a team, through to improved health and embedding exercise habits that will, we hope, last a lifetime. However, the Government’s long-term objective of creating a healthier nation will not be achieved without the active participation of young Scots.
Like others, I therefore very much welcome the Scottish Government’s decision to create a young people’s sport panel, which consists of 16 14 to 25-year-olds, to ensure that young people are engaged and at the forefront of maximising the impact of sport in their communities. It has been a consistent theme of this Government to ensure that young people are empowered, whether at the ballot box or in their community, and I believe that including young people in shaping the future of sport in Scotland ensures the continuation of that policy.
As a West Scotland MSP, I am delighted to see that my region is well represented in the young people’s sport panel. Hannah Jolly and Matt McCormick of Bearsden are both members, and Kulbir Singh from Barrhead and Sophie Gibson from Giffnock will also help to increase the profile of sport in their communities. Kulbir—to pick out one person—is an example of how the involvement of young people in sport can create wider benefits. A badminton player in his own right, he has also volunteered at national and international sporting events, including the four nations disability badminton tournament and the national badminton championships. He runs a badminton club and is a member of the committee in his local Sikh temple that organises sports days in the community.
Through Scottish Government initiatives and the enthusiasm of people such as Kulbir, Sophie, Hannah and Matt, who work hard in their communities, Scotland is well armed for the battle against physical inactivity, with 70 per cent of children aged two to 15 now meeting the recommended levels of physical activity. We beat ourselves up in this place about statistics all the time, but frankly we should celebrate the fact that we are making progress in all these areas, including the battle against physical inactivity.
The 2013 healthy living survey shows that 89 per cent of pupils from first year to fourth year now meet the Government target of two periods of PE per week, which is a considerable improvement since 2004-05. The Scottish Government’s recent announcement of a further investment of £5.8 million will ensure that we are able to build on the progress that we have made in creating a healthier and more active society. The youth sport strategy is another step forward in the development of sport in Scotland and a number of welcome measures are included in it, such as community sports hubs and ensuring that young people with a disability are fully involved in PE and sports provision.
It is not a straightforward or easy task to change a nation’s outlook in terms of sport or healthy physical activity, but I believe that we are on the right path. Next year will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity not only to raise the profile of sport in Scotland, but to encourage our young people to live more active and healthy lives. It is therefore reassuring to see that the Scottish Government is already well prepared to take advantage of those major events and build on the existing opportunities that young people in Scotland enjoy.
- Ken Macintosh (Eastwood) (Lab):
Many of us are using this afternoon’s debate to pay our own personal tribute to the life of Nelson Mandela, in particular his powerful and resonant message about the importance of sport, and I would like to do so, too. Both my colleague Patricia Ferguson and the minister began their speeches by referring to the speech in which President Mandela talked about the power of sport not just to change the world, but to unite it. Of course, he gave that speech at the final of the rugby world cup in South Africa in 1995. He was wearing his Springbok rugby shirt at an event that helped to unify that new and yet still-divided young nation and to redeem South Africa in the eyes of the international community.
Sport was clearly important to Nelson Mandela and I believe that the same feelings about sport hold true for most of us. It moves us, touches our emotions and stands out in so many of our memories and so many of our life occasions, from watching our kids at sports day to the joy of national and international sporting success. This year we had Andy Murray winning at Wimbledon, but I still remember as if it was yesterday when Ian Stewart and Lachie Stewart won the 5,000m and 10,000m at the Commonwealth games in Edinburgh. I am glad that the Presiding Officer is nodding; I think that the minister is way too young to remember such an occasion.
Our lives are littered with such memories, so why—when the topic is so important to shaping us as humans and when it brings us together round our club, our team, our town and our country—do we constantly treat the subject as second class? In public policy, funding, the school curriculum and our culture, we still seem to regard sport as something that is an add-on rather than core or central to our lives. I do not doubt the minister’s good intentions or the good will that all sides have expressed today, but that is not being followed up with the action, the funding, the facilities or the drive to change the culture.
I believe that “transformational” is the political word du jour. There is probably no better moment to transform Scotland’s sporting culture. We have had a series of high-profile sporting successes and, with the Commonwealth games coming up, the country is abuzz with sporting anticipation.
- Shona Robison:
I am not sure that I agree with the vision that Ken Macintosh painted of facilities. When I look around me, I see fantastic new facilities not just in the west but in lots of communities. We have sports facilities like we have never had before. Surely there is a positive story to tell about that. More can always be done, but surely he recognises that we now have some fantastic facilities in our communities.
- Ken Macintosh:
I absolutely welcome new facilities every time that they are opened. However, I am conscious that we are still losing parks, playgrounds and tennis courts. Just up the road from me, in East Kilbride, a huge investment was made in a big building called Playsport, but it then lay empty and was not fitted out. It is being used for recreational activities, but not for the sport for which it was designed. This is a cold, wet, dark and wintry country half the time and we face a lot of challenges if we want to play sport. Much more than the rest of the UK, we need indoor facilities, which require investment and commitment.
On commitment, despite years of trying, we have still not been able to deliver something as simple as two hours of PE a week in each of our schools. Would we have taken so long to deliver two hours of maths? For that matter, what does it say when we tag on and squeeze in a short debate such as this at the end of a long parliamentary day?
On the one hand, some good work is going on. Whatever we might think about our national football side or the state of the professional game, there is great work in youth football—not just the fantastic work of Jim Fleeting, Andy Gould and all at the Scottish Football Association but the unsung voluntary effort of coaches.
On the other hand, how many of us have heard stories about what is happening in other sports—in badminton, tennis, wrestling, canoeing, basketball and many others—and about parents falling out with coaches, squabbles and infighting? Many good people work in sports organisations, but I do not believe that they have the governance, accountability or transparency of funding that is needed to build confidence. I am not convinced that some sports have the structures to develop a long-term strategy, never mind to deliver it.
Presiding Officer, this is an incredibly short debate and I should not have taken an intervention. I want to make a big point about what happens in our teenage years.
- The Presiding Officer (Tricia Marwick):
You will need to make it quickly.
- Ken Macintosh:
In those years, a catastrophic falling-off occurs in participation in sport, particularly among girls. It does not have to be that way. If we take the example of the best schools, we can change our world and follow Nelson Mandela’s example.
- Aileen McLeod (South Scotland) (SNP):
I welcome the opportunity to speak and I welcome the launch of the consultation on the draft strategy. I thank the young people’s sport panel for its work and I am pleased that some of its members have joined us for the debate. The strategy is for young people and has been guided by them; I congratulate them on that. I also warmly welcome the announcement that £5.8 million in funding will continue to support schools in delivering PE lessons.
Some members have reflected on the importance of sport in promoting health and wellbeing. We need sport for young people to function well at all levels so that we identify and support the champion athletes of the future and allow everyone to participate, whatever their ability level is.
As I am a South Scotland MSP, I will mention that the under-20 ice hockey world championships are taking place at Dumfries ice bowl this week. This morning, the Stanley cup—the most prestigious trophy in ice hockey—arrived in Glasgow ahead of celebrations in Dumfries later this week to mark 100 years of ice hockey in Britain. That is great for Dumfries because, like the Commonwealth games, it brings elite-level sport closer to home and such opportunities are very important for our young people. Indeed, a key message in the strategy is the importance of opportunities, whether it is the chance to see world-class sporting events at first hand or the chance to get involved in active participation.
Much of what is happening in Dumfries and Galloway to deliver opportunities is already aligned with the key areas that are outlined in the strategy. For example, the local council is moving ahead with plans to establish community sports hubs and has secured funding from sportscotland to create a new post that will concentrate on developing competitive school sport across the region. I understand that it is the first such post in Scotland.
Secondary schools throughout Dumfries and Galloway are part of the 2014 ambassador programme, and a lead 2014 conference is being planned for next February or March. The support and training that will be offered at that event will be linked to the Queen’s baton relay as an opportunity to spread engagement in sport as widely as possible throughout the region.
Reflecting the importance of the great people strand of the strategy, Dumfries dolphins swimming club is one of the first swimming clubs in Scotland to have worked through all the elements of the positive coaching Scotland programme, and the council is working with sportscotland on piloting the multiskill coach training to which the minister referred.
The Dumfries and Galloway branch of Scottish Disability Sport recently recorded a fantastic success at the national junior championships for swimmers with a sensory impairment or physical disability, with the region’s swimmers well represented in the medals table. It is vital that we are inclusive and use the strategy to offer opportunities to all our young people.
On the great places strand, there is a great opportunity in the Dalbeattie schools project—a new learning campus that will be built through the Scottish Futures Trust—for us to test the early involvement of sportscotland in the design process and create a really first-rate facility.
There is so much that is positive both in the strategy and in what is already happening on the ground that it is impossible to do the subject justice in the time that we have. I will, therefore, close by reflecting on the minister’s summary of what the young people’s sport panel said that it wants: “great opportunities, supported by great people, delivered in great places and given a higher profile.” The work that is already taking place is starting to deliver those things, and I am confident that the draft strategy will deliver on those ambitions and the aspirations of Scotland’s children and young people. I look forward to the publication of the final strategy and the action plan next spring.
- Margo MacDonald (Lothian) (Ind):
I have an interest to declare—I am the Parliament’s one qualified specialist PE teacher. I might have two sticks these days, but I would not even be going around on two sticks if I had not qualified in PE.
Although I greatly appreciate the work that the minister has done in promoting the additional modules of PE for general teachers at training colleges, nothing will beat a PE specialist and no money should ever be saved by having the shortage of PE teachers that Liz Smith alluded to. We cannot expect to improve the quality of our PE without quality teaching and the in-depth knowledge that comes from specialist PE teachers.
I pay tribute to the minister, who has been really good in her post. However, she talked about the quantity of PE teaching that we now have because there are statistics to say that more kids are doing two hours of quality PE. The phrase “quality PE” trips off the tongue, but I have not yet seen a definition of it. What about the quality of the teaching? Do we know whether that is improving? We cannot possibly judge that at the moment because we do not have an even playing field.
What is the idea behind the strategy? Is it that we should be better at sport and, as a by-product, produce healthier people, or is it to have a healthier nation and to achieve that through sport? There is a difference, and the priority must be established.
- Shona Robison:
The strategy is about giving young people the core skills so that they can go on to enjoy sport, a by-product of which will be a healthier life. The quality of PE is very important and the new money will focus on driving that up.
- Margo MacDonald:
Obviously, I am pleased to hear that.
We have not yet identified a strategic way to develop sports that suit Scotland. The figures show that fewer young people are taking part in sport of their own volition, and that cannot all be explained by the PC-in-the-bedroom generation, because the same generation exists in Scandinavia and elsewhere. Although some other countries find it difficult to get young people to take part in active sport, countries that are more like us than we care to remind ourselves of, such as Iceland, Norway, Sweden and the Baltic countries, have become experts in the sports that suit their terrain and climate.
We still try to be world beaters at sports that we can never be world beaters at, although every so often somebody good will pop up. We could have a greater number of people performing at a higher level if we chose the right sports. Why do we not concentrate on winter sports? We are world beaters at them. Why do we not choose sailing? Why not boxing? We are good at that, so we should sort out how we feel about it. Why do we not choose orienteering? We are made for sports like that, but we have not thought too much about it. We might get more people involved in those sports, but we have not tried. We have tried football, rugby and other commonly played field sports, but people do not hang on to them—only a minority of people continue playing them after they have left school. I ask the minister to take a wider look at sports.
Absolutely fundamentally, I want the minister to look again at PE in schools. She has done a great deal on that and much has been said about it. It is now fashionable to believe in PE but, as Ken Macintosh asked, why is it an also-ran or tack-on subject in educating our children? Why do some people still look at me and think that I am daft because I am just a drillie? It is because there has been and is a terrible snobbery in Scottish education and in school classrooms. The PE teacher has been derided as the thick one. Members have asked why PE does not have the status that it should have—
- The Presiding Officer:
Can I ask you to wind up, please?
- Margo MacDonald:
I have said my piece. Thank you, Presiding Officer.
- The Presiding Officer:
You are very welcome, Ms MacDonald.
- Colin Keir (Edinburgh Western) (SNP):
I welcome the strategy for youth sports and in particular the input by the young people’s sport panel. It is good that those whom we want to encourage to participate in sport have taken part in the direction finding that, frankly, we have required for some time.
As I see it, there are two issues. The first, which a number of members have dealt with, is how we get young people into sport. What is sport at a youth level? It was only in the latter part of the debate that the idea of fun has been introduced. People need to find a real sense of fun when they kick off—that is the only way that we will get youngsters in primary school interested. The transition between primary and secondary school has been mentioned, and there are the physical changes that happen during adolescence, which particularly affect girls’ involvement in sport. Those are all issues, but they have been around for years. Dealing with them is the first part of tackling the problems.
Obviously, I am delighted with the £5.9 million that the minister mentioned and that 89 per cent of schools have met the PE target, although I would love 100 per cent of schools to have the full amount of PE. However, having read the report, I want to raise the issue of how we help people to continue when they identify the sport that they are interested in. At school, PE provides a taster to allow kids to get into sport and to find out what sport they like, what is good for them and how they can continue doing it.
Another issue is that we want high-level athletes. Ken Macintosh mentioned Ian Stewart. The first time that I ran a 5,000m for Edinburgh Athletic Club back in the 1970s, when I was 17, we stayed with the Stewart family in Birchfield. Those people are role models to us.
I get very despondent when I see that the last time that a Scottish record for a flat race between 100m and the marathon was broken was 19 years ago with Tom McKean. We have to go back to 1975 to the 400m record by David Jenkins. There is therefore an issue with role models. Those people have been and gone and a lot of people do not remember them—we were having a laugh at who remembers Ian Stewart—but I do. Graham Williamson, who holds the Scottish record for the 1 mile, was my captain in the Scottish schools cross-country team, but that is going back so many years. We have to get people involved now.
This is where the people aspect comes in. When I went to Craigmount school, it was great. The head of physical education was Peter Gallagher, a Scottish B international rugby player. At that time I had no interest in rugby, but my English teacher was the five times Scottish marathon champion, Colin Youngson. He got me into running and, through that, I became an international and carried on from there. It was absolutely fantastic.
People are the key. We have to involve people who inspire and really want the kids to do well. If we do that, people will have fun at sport and take it through their entire careers into adulthood and we will, I hope, start to see the results in future years.
- Graeme Pearson (South Scotland) (Lab):
The young people’s sports panel is to be congratulated on its contribution to the draft strategy. Great opportunities, people and locations are what our young people demand. They want to participate in something that is attractive and first-class. As Margo MacDonald indicated earlier, a higher profile for physical education as a subject in its own right is essential and—to add another aspect—it needs to cost what people and their families can afford.
Today’s debate is timely. This morning, the British Journal of Sports Medicine published a report from one of its contributors that the absence of a United Kingdom policy on physical activity is mass child neglect. Although I would not go so far in my own estimation of what that means, I understand the point that the writer is trying to make.
The minister has, quite properly, said a lot about the successes with the strategy thus far. However, within the healthy living survey, there is a statistic that indicates that children’s participation in sport has decreased from 73 per cent in 2009 to 66 per cent in 2012. That is an important statistic that we need to take account of.
Schools’ commitment to sport and a meaningful provision of physical education is vital to the links between wider education, PE attainment and the development of the individual. Although it is welcome that £5.8 million is to be dedicated to improving PE lessons, that £5.8 million is being given over a two-year period.
- Margo MacDonald:
Does the member have an answer to the question about why there has been that drop in the percentage of young people who are taking part in sport?
- Graeme Pearson:
I suppose a number of answers could be offered. Our computer generation and so on have all been alluded to, but at the end of the day it is about making sport attractive and meaningful to young people so that they will engage with it. It is about providing sports that are relevant to those young people.
As was indicated earlier, in this country it is dark for too many months, it is a bit wet on occasions, and it can be a bit cold. No doubt most members have acknowledged that, having become involved in sport, once people get out there they enjoy it, even in such circumstances, and they engage when their PE teachers are first-class and know how to bring out the best in their pupils.
Let us bear it in mind that the £5.8 million is to be spread among 376 high schools, 193 special schools and 2,153 primary school locations. I know that it will be invested at the top end, but once it is spread out among all the pupils in Scotland it does not amount to much. I know that some schools currently spend more than £600 per month hiring buses in order to get pupils to locations so that they can engage in the very education that we seek to support.
The youth sport strategy aims to ensure high-quality sports coaching, more competitive sport between schools and the full involvement of disabled pupils, but we should bear it in mind that many PE teachers are teaching to classes of 30. Those involved in community sports training for coaches have indicated that they would prefer that classes should be no more than 15 if that education is to be worth while in those circumstances.
I commend the minister for leading from the front. Today is a day not only to laud what has been achieved in the past but to note that there is much more to be achieved in future. If we are to give our children a future, we need to take those matters more seriously.
- Mark McDonald (Aberdeen Donside) (SNP):
I have been both a participant in youth sport, as a member of my local athletics club when I was younger, and also a coach, having coached youth football prior to getting involved in elected politics as a councillor.
One thing that needs to be emphasised, as Colin Keir pointed out strongly, is that although PE teachers are important—it was through my PE teacher at secondary school that I was put in contact with the local athletics club—there are many more people who have a role to play in driving the sport agenda. It is not just the PE teacher at the school who has the capacity to run one of the school sports teams or to get children inspired and involved in sport. That is something that is worth bearing in mind as we take the strategy forward.
In my constituency—indeed, in the city of Aberdeen—we have a number of good sporting facilities. The Aberdeen Sports Village is a shining example of the Government’s commitment to delivering top-quality sporting facilities and it represents a strong investment in the city. Adjoining it is the Aberdeen aquatic centre, currently under development, which was brought forward by the council administration of which I was part. It provides a 50m pool for the city of Aberdeen that will allow for development and training for elite swimming clubs.
- Margo MacDonald:
Will the member give way?
- Mark McDonald:
I suspect that I may be about to cover the point that Margo MacDonald is going to raise, so perhaps she will let me develop it and see whether it goes where she thinks it might.
One of the key points is that those facilities are not just for elite sports people. Not everybody who gets involved with sport will be an elite sportsperson: not everybody who joins a football team is going to win a trophy and not everybody who joins an athletics club is going to win a medal or become a champion. It is important that we do not promote sport as being just about developing elite athletes for the future, but that we promote sport as something in which it is fundamentally good to get involved in and of itself.
- Margo MacDonald:
I thank Mark McDonald for giving way. That is not the point that he thought I might make.
The council is providing a top-class quality facility, and all the clubs—there are a lot of clubs in the Grampian area—will want to use it. My message to the council would be, “Don’t put the prices too high,” because the clubs cannot afford to take the water time.
- Mark McDonald:
I should have learned by now that it is always a mistake to try to second-guess Margo MacDonald, but I take the point that she makes.
I recently visited Zariba, a synchronised skating club in Aberdeen that is currently the Scottish and UK champion in synchronised skating. One of the pressures that its members face is the cost not just of entering competitions—they often have to travel internationally to compete—but of using the ice rink in Aberdeen. That is a point that I took up on their behalf and there has been some progress in that regard.
I agree with Margo MacDonald because, having been involved in youth sport both as a participant and as a coach, I know that there are cost pressures for parents and for children—and for clubs as well. Some clubs are phenomenally successful at fundraising, gaining sponsorship and advancing in that respect, but other clubs struggle. Perhaps we need to look at that issue and consider how we can assist the clubs that do not have the easy ins to gaining sponsorship and access to private funding. They might be based in deprived communities and not have the benefit of parents who can afford the most up-to-date equipment for their children or pay fees to enable their children to participate.
We perhaps need to look at such points going forward. However, I welcome the draft strategy and I am sure that it will be informed by the consultation.
- The Presiding Officer:
We now move to the winding-up speeches. I call Mary Scanlon. Ms Scanlon, you have four minutes.
- Mary Scanlon (Highlands and Islands) (Con):
First, I thank Margo MacDonald for her speech. It takes a qualified, highly specialised PE teacher to tell us what it is all about—well done, Margo.
I started reading the Government’s draft strategy “Giving children and young people a sporting chance” after coming home from my Pilates class last night, so my first comment is that it is not only children and young people who need access to sports and exercise but people of all ages. I looked back at where our adult sport strategy was and I found the Labour-Liberal Democrat Government’s publication “Let’s Make Scotland More Active: A strategy for physical activity”, which was published in 2003 and which included both children and adults.
I understand that since the publication of that strategy, which set targets of physical activity for children and adults to be reached by 2022, we have tended to focus on children, which is reasonable and fair in terms of assuming that they will continue to be physically active throughout their lives. However, I hope that the targets set for adults in 2003, which I understand were reviewed in 2008, have not been abandoned. I ask the minister to give a progress update on that either in her summing-up speech or in writing later.
There is much that local and central Government can do to provide local facilities for exercise and other classes for people of all ages. The Health and Sport Committee carried out an inquiry on pathways into sport in 2009. We discovered that where there was a can-do attitude, such as in East Renfrewshire Council, the two hours of quality physical education by specialist PE teachers was delivered. However, in other local authorities there were plenty of excuses to be found, such as a crowded curriculum, lack of facilities and transport, and staff issues. We heard, though, that physically active children were more alert and attentive in the classroom and that their level of fitness enhanced their learning abilities.
- Margo MacDonald:
Will the member take an intervention?
- Mary Scanlon:
No, I have only four minutes, Margo—sorry.
We welcome and acknowledge the progress that has been made towards achieving the two hours of PE, but I read in the SNP manifesto:
“To help Scottish children develop the habit of physical fitness, we will ensure that every pupil has two hours of quality PE each week, delivered by specialist PE teachers.”
I was a lecturer for more than 20 years before coming to the Parliament and if someone had said to me then, “Right. You take your students for PE this week,” I would not have known where to start. I think that my students would have been at quite a disadvantage if I had been expected to take them for PE.
As well as the obvious benefits of fitness from participation in sport, we are now much more aware of the positive link between participation in sport and combating obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis and depression.
I am looking at the clock, so I will just say of the strategy that I was pleased to note that in addition to the target of two hours of PE, the Government acknowledges that swimming and cycling are fundamental skills for life. I am not sure what
“37 per cent of eligible children receive on road training”
on cycling means, but I presume from the word “eligible” that it does not mean 37 per cent of all children. I ask that a little bit more than one paragraph for swimming and cycling be included in the main strategy when it comes out.
- The Presiding Officer:
I remind members that they should address or refer to one another by their full names.
- Duncan McNeil (Greenock and Inverclyde) (Lab):
Given the involvement of Mary Scanlon and me on the Health and Sport Committee it is not surprising that we focus on this subject as a health issue. There was a shocking headline this week about 20 people a week dying as a result of alcohol. The last time that we had a debate on this subject, the minister reminded us that 50 people a week die from inactivity and lack of exercise and that the issue costs the health service about £90 million a year. I view the strategies, with all their strands, as feeding into the healthy nation, which Stewart Maxwell and Margo MacDonald referred to.
It goes without saying that sport has a significant role to play in encouraging young people to live more active lifestyles, which can improve their outlook. It is to be hoped that enjoyable experiences will boost their confidence and their physical and mental wellbeing, and that they will take that into their later years.
We have all been inspired by those people who are already involved. At St Joseph’s school, the key fitness initiative involved the Greenock Morton captain, Mark McLaughlin. I mention him because the power of good coaches is important. Those primary school children were not passive participants in a sports exercise; they were getting access to somebody who is a good coach. Part of the exercise that I witnessed was about the primary school pupils developing their ability to coach their fellow pupils. Taking a turn coaching developed their confidence no end, and it was really inspiring to watch.
During the Health and Sport Committee’s inquiry, some of my colleagues saw the work of basketballscotland. The young women involved go through the whole process and become ambassadors for their sport. Young primary girls were watching the older girls taking a class and they were in awe—there was a connection there. That can be made meaningful; it can be made to be really great.
- Margo MacDonald:
The member has given an excellent example of a sport that has far too much underfunding, but so much potential.
- Duncan McNeil:
It is also a question of what people make of it—in terms of money, and also the enthusiasm for the particular sport. Young people want to participate in that sport and it is really important that the strategy has been developed by young people, listening to young people.
We have spoken about the quality of teaching and coaching. We had PE teachers in my day, although PE was not very exciting. On a rainy day, they used to run us up Lyle Hill from Rankin park and run us back down again. It was not very inspiring. It is important that we listen to young people and, as Stewart Maxwell says, that we prepare for the legacy from and the enthusiasm that will be focused on the Commonwealth games. We need to harness that—and I will return later to what we need to do in order to do that. There is no doubt that such preparation could be an important step in developing a lasting legacy beyond 2014—as long as we listen to young people and we put in place the things that can provide encouragement. It was the Health and Sport Committee that recommended setting up a young people’s forum and we are glad that the minister took that advice.
The Government has plans to extend competitive sport between schools. That could really work for people. There is no doubt that the competitive experience as described by members such as Ken Macintosh and Colin Keir can be inspiring and can motivate young people to improve their skills. However, we must also bear it in mind that we are not developing elite athletes. We hope that young people take their enjoyment and fun into their teenage years—and indeed their adult years—if we are to meet the health targets.
As Patricia Ferguson said, the aim is to tackle discrimination and other issues to allow young people to be attracted to and supported in sporting activity, irrespective of their gender, race, sexuality or, indeed, class. Those are the issues that prevent young people from getting involved and we need to tackle them. The extra costs to ensure that young people with disabilities take part have been mentioned.
Volunteers are vital. Unfortunately, we need to tackle the barriers to volunteering if we hope to develop a legacy. The number of people who volunteer in Scotland to enable people to participate in sport is flatlining at best. International comparisons show that we are lagging behind Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany. We need to do better if we are to achieve a legacy.
What the minister said was right, particularly in respect of Inverclyde. We have never been best served by our facilities. We cannot build a strategy on the fact that only 40 per cent of the available outdoor space in secondary schools is used and only 28 per cent of it is used in the school holidays. We need to do better.
- Shona Robison:
This has been a very good debate and I thank everybody for their comments. I know that it has been quite short, but I am happy to come back to the Parliament on the issue. I will ask that the young people’s sports panel consider all the suggestions that have been made in the debate as they take the draft forward to the publication of a final strategy and action plan in the spring of next year.
Some good suggestions have been made. I am certainly happy to look at Patricia Ferguson’s scholarship suggestion and if we can go further on access for children with a disability we will, of course, do so.
Liz Smith made some useful suggestions, as did Tavish Scott, around travel costs. We have already committed to looking at that issue.
Stewart Maxwell reminded us of some of the more positive statistics. Two thirds or 70 per cent of children aged two to 15 meet the recommended levels of physical activity. However, we do not want to be complacent, which is why we have no difficulty in accepting the Labour amendment. We recognise that there is always more to be done.
Ken Macintosh talked about the requirement for more indoor facilities, particularly during the winter. I absolutely recognise that, which is why we have put such a focus on opening up the school estate. In many communities, schools provide the best sporting facilities. They need to be open beyond the school day. The recent research that sportscotland undertook shows that a lot of the school estate is open beyond the school day, but we need to ensure that it is all open beyond the school day. The hubs are a good way of doing that.
- Duncan McNeil:
Does the minister recognise that the hubs have many positive aspects and are a good model, but that we should also acknowledge what the sports clubs bring to our local communities—the sense of wellbeing and solidarity—and that they should not be forced into a hub model if they do not want to be in one?
- Shona Robison:
Obviously, the hubs are the clubs in many respects, but I agree that it is fine if clubs do not want to go into a hub. Many of them do, of course, because they can then share facilities, resources and people. That is a good model, particularly for the smaller clubs. I think that Mark McDonald mentioned them.
Ken Macintosh asked why it has taken so long to deliver the two hours of PE. Exactly. I wanted to take the matter by the scruff of the neck and make that happen because it was taking too long—to have only 10 per cent of schools in 2004-05 meeting the two hours of PE target was an absolute disgrace. By my estimation, getting to nearly 90 per cent of schools delivering those two hours in two periods is not a bad track record, but we are not complacent about that; indeed, I want to see all schools delivering that as the minimum. We are investing £11.6 million— £5.8 million over the past two years and £5.8 million over the next two years—to make that happen. Every local authority must come up with a plan for how every school in its area will deliver on that target and that money helps to oil the wheels.
- Patricia Ferguson:
As I said, we very much welcome the increase in the number of young people who are accessing physical activity through PE. However, I point out to the minister that the baseline figure was for two hours, not two periods, so we are not comparing like with like. In addition, we were originally talking about quality PE delivered by PE specialists.
- Shona Robison:
The member will find that, when it came to secondary schools, the count was not based on two hours; rather, it was based on the period system in the sector. However, let us just get the target met and more kids having more PE. I recognise that the quality of the activity is absolutely critical and the new funding will focus on driving that up.
I am absolutely delighted that Dumfries is, as Aileen McLeod mentioned, hosting the ice hockey tournament. That is a big deal for the town. I hope that that goes well.
Margo MacDonald, as always, made very good points. She talked about sport that we are successful at. The fastest growing sport is girls’ football. A benefit from that is how fantastically well our national women’s football team is doing. That success is no coincidence—it is because all those girls are enjoying football and excelling at that sport. She also made an important point about quality and the status of physical education. We are driving forward initiatives such as better movers and thinkers because they demonstrate that the academic performance of children improves with the enhancement of physical activity and education in schools, so there is also an academic benefit to it.
- Margo MacDonald:
Will the minister take on an even more fundamental issue and look at the idea of incorporating specialist PE colleges into universities? That was the position when I trained, but I fear that there is now far too much classroom work in the approach adopted.
- Shona Robison:
I want to ensure that the PE resource in its broadest sense is available. That may be done by PE specialists, well-trained confident classroom teachers or coaches working in partnership with teachers. However, the issue is really about children enjoying PE and wanting more of it. That is not always about the qualifications of the person but about their skills in enthusing the young person about PE and sport.
A number of other important points were made that I will touch on. Graeme Pearson mentioned affordability and access. Community sports hubs are important for that reason, which is why we have made it a condition on such hubs that affordability is key. We want the school estate and the community sports facilities to be not only open, but affordable to all.
I reassure Mary Scanlon on her point about adults. The debate was on youth strategy, so she will excuse me for focusing on young people.
- Mary Scanlon:
I am well aware of that.
- Shona Robison:
Adults are important, too, and our targets there remain. The latest statistics show that 62 per cent of adults met the recommended physical activity levels. There is always more to do. We are investing in the Paths for All Partnership and are about to deliver a new walking strategy because we know that walking is a critical physical activity for the older population. We have not given up on the grown-ups at all, but the early development of good habits in the school environment is important because we know that active children and young people become active adults.
I thank members for the debate. We will look for other opportunities to come back to the Parliament for a debate on the final strategy.