Tuesday 16 November 2004

Mr FINCH (Question) - Mr President, I have three questions which all concern the same department. The first question -

Mr Aird - Where am I?

Members laughing.

Mr PRESIDENT - Order. The honourable member for Rosevears has the call.

Mr FINCH - Thank you very much, Mr President. First, in view of overwhelming evidence that the problem of osteoporosis in both men and women is directly linked to skeletal?enhancing exercise pre-puberty, what steps will the Minister for Education take to ensure that all Tasmanian primary school children get sufficient exercise of this type? Second, in view of the fact that sport in schools policies are not obvious on the Education department web site, what steps can be taken to ensure that the Tasmanian public and the odd Legislative Councillor can get quick access to policies on sport in schools? Third, could the Leader inform this Chamber on the progress in implementing any recent recommendations on improving access to sports programs in Tasmanian public schools?

Mr AIRD - I thank the honourable member for his question. The Tasmanian government school student participation survey that was initiated by the Minister for Education in 2003 indicates that primary schools are already providing up to 400 minutes of activity per week for their students. This is well in excess of the suggested exercise schedule for school-age children. The maintaining wellbeing key element of the Essential Learnings curriculum specifically addresses physical activity as an integral component of the curriculum for students from kindergarten to year 10.

The swimming award safety program has operated in schools for the last 53 years. The program targets grades 3, 4 and 5 students and aims to achieve the national grade 6 benchmarks. This program provides intensive activity in skill development. There is comprehensive assessment and reporting conducted as an integral part of this program. Early intervention occurs to identify students with specific needs in the area of physical development. The kindergarten developmental check analyses fundamental motor skill development, which is an essential precondition for effective participation in physical activity.

I am aware that the Minister for Education has additional significant work under way in relation to physical activity and nutrition policy and supporting activities. It does need to be appreciated that the provision of sporting opportunities for young people is determined by local circumstances and by partnerships with local sporting organisations. All primary schools provide varied sporting opportunities for their students, both within and across schools. Detailed information provision therefore needs to come from the individual schools, and principals are the best contact for this information. State sporting organisations employ developmental officers to work in schools and generally promote their sport.

The student participation survey conducted in 2003 indicates that 91 per cent of all schools surveyed offer sports clinics, with 74 per cent of these conducting them on a weekly basis. This initiative, coupled with school and community-organised sporting rosters, provides excellent opportunity for students to access sport. As I have already indicated, further policy and support work is being undertaken in relation to physical activity and nutrition. Details will be provided in the new year.