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Ramsay Jones: Time to STEP up for children

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Last Wednesday saw the Scottish Parliament at its best as MSPs from across the chamber spoke in a members’ debate on education.

Specifically, it was about the ability of a child to develop their fundamental movement skills through personalised, individual exercises which hone their balance, eye tracking and coordination. In other words, physical literacy as opposed to physical education.

It is an intervention which has been wrongly identified as only being helpful to those with dyslexia, but has proven to be of benefit to a much wider group of children. It takes only two 10 minute sessions each day in school and can make a huge difference to a child’s self esteem, well being, and their reading and writing.

Teacher Reading Story To Elementary School Pupils

The specific STEP programme which the politicians discussed has already proven itself in UK trials, and in extensive use in the USA. It is no surprise that Mississippi has been winning awards for education innovation – they have embraced the scheme.

So on Wednesday, politicians from the Scottish Conservatives, Scottish Labour and the SNP had the chance to discuss whether Scotland should be leading the way in the UK and giving children in P4 and P5 their chance to join the STEP programme.

There was universal praise for such physical literacy programmes and a recognition that they are not in competition with other more general physical initiatives such as the Daily Mile, but that programmes such as STEP can work alongside them.

I said in the introduction that the debate saw Holyrood at its best. It did, because it was an all too rare occasion when the focus was not on party politicking but on the schoolchildren and what was best for them. Indeed, both Ruth Davidson and John Swinney made visits that same day to highlight the well being of our kids – pre school and in primary.

Thus, the debate was introduced by Liz Smith of the Tories, but backed up by Labour and replied to by an SNP Minister, Shirley Ann Somerville.

Importantly, she confirmed that next week the Education Secretary will be meeting the STEP team face to face. Only last month Mr Swinney told parliament that he wanted to embed physical literacy into Scotland’s schools. He’s right. We should.

The programme is garnering widespread support from education professionals, teachers and parents across Scotland. And now our politicians are coming together to add their support.

We have the chance to blaze a trail in the UK and make a big difference to thousands of Scottish children. Physical literacy programmes such as STEP can make a big contribution to closing the attainment gap, the overarching education goal of the Scottish Government. Our politicians are united. There is nothing to lose.

Let’s seize the chance.

Hotel concierge taken in by beard ‘disguise’

I decided not to shave over Christmas and New Year, and now sport a natty, silver beard. It is, somebody suggested, an attempt to don a disguise and move on from an incident I wrote about last year.

My diligent reader will recall how I was mistaken for the actor and archeology presenter Tony Robinson by a sweet little old lady in Jersey.

Well it has happened again.

Not another Baldrick moment this time but, I am glad to report, a rather more flattering confusion.

Last week as I wandered through the lobby of a hotel in Edinburgh, the concierge greeted me with a cheery “hello”.

“We had your lovely wife here at the weekend” he said.

“She was with the BBC to cover the athletics. Have a lovely day, Mr Logan.”

Gabby Logan
Gabby Logan

Now as it happens, I was in the hotel with Gabby Logan’s other half, Kenny, he of Scottish rugby and Strictly fame. And Gabby had indeed been in Edinburgh a few days earlier.

But do I really look like him? Had Gabby been telling people that she and I were an item? (You promised to keep it quiet, Gabby…)

It turns out that last time Mr L had been in town, he too had been hairy faced.

He is now clean shaven. Just so he doesn’t get mistaken for me and can keep Gabby all to himself.

World feels the tremors and turmoil

This will be quite a week. Again.

On Tuesday, the prime minister will set out greater details on what Brexit means with No 10 reportedly warning that the speech might move markets and Sterling could take another tumble.

Donald Trump will formally take office in the USA and the world is holding its breath.

In Northern Ireland, talks will resume to try and head off a constitutional crisis although the signs increasingly look like another Assembly election is on the way.

The search will continue to try and sift fact from fiction in the extraordinary claim, counter claim and allegations about the Trump dossier produced by a former MI6 spy. If this story had been submitted as an outline for a book, it would have been rejected as far too far fetched.

Peace is still a long way away in Syria and tensions abound in the Balkans.

The tectonic plates of global politics are grumbling and the tremors are being felt around the world.

So strap yourselves in. It could be quite a ride.