THE three Rs, reading, writing and arithmetic, were always seen as the foundations of our education system, but I’d like to see the addition of a fourth – recreation, or, to be more precise, physical recreation.

On Thursday, at the Scottish Women in Sport conference in Edinburgh, we will discuss the role education plays in delivering sport.

Researching speakers for our third conference has been fascinating. “Education – is it the key to participation in sport?” I have learned so much about the good work that is being carried out. The topic is interesting and perhaps a little controversial, as everyone has their own idea on where sport should be delivered; is it in school or out in the community?

We will kick off with an address from Aileen Campbell, the new minister for public health and sport. She will be joined by an array of expert guests, who will provide an insight into the work being carried out to help encourage more participation in sport and in particular how this differs by gender. Starting with the youngest age group, three to five-year-olds, Alison Mackie, from Clackmannanshire Council, will ask the question: Does Gender Matter?

Thomas Dowens, who is PE development officer with Education Scotland, will give us an insight into the Better Movers and Thinkers programme, which shows the benefits of children being active, particularly in an academic setting. He will also advise on the benefits of developing physical literacy in the early years.

Elaine Wylie, the founder of The Daily Mile, will also be joining us. The scheme shows the simplest of ideas can have the greatest impact, but I doubt Elaine thought the impact of her idea would spread as far as it has, taking her on to TV last year to pick up a Pride of Britain award as Teacher of the Year.

Clearly understanding that we are in the midst of a childhood obesity crisis, with more than a third of our children overweight by the time they leave primary school, Elaine put her thoughts into action and implemented a required daily walk for pupils at St Ninian’s Primary in Stirling. The Daily Mile was implemented by most Scottish schools and even made a splash across the Border.

In the afternoon, we will hear from Jonny Penman, a primary PE specialist for Glasgow City Council, Hayley Barr, a Fit for Girls national trainer, and Rebecca Gracey, education development manager at Netball Scotland.

Next up will be Scotland’s Physical Education Champion, Dr Andrew Murray who, among other feats, ran seven ultra-marathons on seven continents in under a week. He will tell us why regular physical activity is the best present we can give our children and young people.

We will finish with a panel debate, discussing new standardised assessments being brought in for reading, writing and numeracy in P1, P4, P7 and S3, and asking: “Why is there no requirement in there for physical literacy?”

I am really looking forward to hearing from our speakers. Tickets are still available if you would like to join us – please go to

Maureen McGongigle is the founder of Scottish Women in Sport