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Benchmarking in physical fitness schools.

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Guy Barnett Liberal Senator for Tasmania

Benchmarking Physical Fitness In Schools

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Senator Guy Barnett has written to Education, Science and Training Minister Brendan Nelson seeking support for benchmarking physical fitness in schools.

“There should be mandatory physical fitness in schools and this should be benchmarked in the same way literacy and numeracy are benchmarked, according to a set of performance measures,” Senator Barnett said.

He made the call in a speech at a forum in Hobart called “Tasmanian Leaders in Careers”. Senator Barnett was representing Dr Nelson at the forum.

“In Tasmania physical fitness in schools is not mandatory, and yet research has shown how primary schools have physical education periods for students for an average of only 30 minutes a week on a non-compulsory basis. This is the lowest rate in Australia,” he said.

“This is a major lapse in our duty of care as a community. I have written to Dr Nelson seeking support for benchmarking because physical fitness is an integral part of preparing our students for the great challenges later on in life in terms of a healthy lifestyle and self confidence.

“I am also hoping that benchmarking will attract much greater interest from the States, in making physical fitness mandatory in their schools,” he said.

Senator Barnett said he could not believe Tasmania would not have mandatory physical fitness in schools when the State topped the nation in the rate of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

“Childhood obesity has more than doubled in the past 10 years, and half our obese children will remain obese in their adult life. I would have thought this fact alone would galvanise State Governments around Australia,” he said.

“In the 1950s six per cent of 17 year olds remained at school. In 1975 this had grown to 30 per cent, and in 2002 more than 60 per cent of 17 year olds remain at school. More than ever we have an obligation to prepare these children academically and physically for their chosen careers,” Senator Barnett said.

He said that if benchmarking of physical fitness had funding conditions attached he made no apology, because the fitness and health of the student was paramount.

“If most of the States want to abrogate their responsibilities then perhaps it is time for the Australian Government to intervene,” Senator Barnett said.