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Wilson kicks off Pounds 2m sports drive

Article | Published in TESS on 13 February, 1998 | By: David Henderson

Brian Wilson, the Education Minister, says the school sports co-ordinator initiative is "one of the most exciting things that will happen in the current year".

Mr Wilson, speaking at the launch of the Pounds 2 million scheme, praised the early pilot projects for raising after-school activity and pledged to bring the experience to all secondaries, beginning in August. The lottery is giving Pounds 1 million while local authorities will have to find a matching sum.

Mr Wilson said there was "demonstrable evidence" that co-ordinators led to increased levels of participation. "This is a superb use of lottery money because it will bring benefits to every pupil in every secondary school in Scotland," he stated.

He rejected a suggestion he was placing an extra financial burden on councils. "Local authorities realise it is extremely good value for money and many have responded very positively."

Consolidation of extracurricular sport is the name of the game at North Berwick High, East Lothian, where Mr Wilson was speaking. Helen Walker, a part-time PE teacher, took over the co-ordinator's remit in September and has a day a week to organise the programme and develop new activities. Thursdays are for planning.

"I seem to spend a lot of time on the phone," she admits. "There is a lot of in-school administration, fixtures to be arranged, checking buses, arranging tournaments and getting out to visit primary schools."

Seven class teachers and four PE staff, plus a few parents, help with a programme that is dominated by rugby and hockey. A basketball club with around 15 boys meets twice a week at lunch time while the badminton club attracts 50 pupils and meets twice a week after school. A local club member takes the Monday session and a teacher the Thursday session.

Indoor hockey is popular with third-year pupils and seniors who play in an Edinburgh league. They practise once a week at lunch time. Golf, in a coastal area that is home to some of the country's finest courses, is popular in the summer term. An informal gathering of footballers completes the picture.

Mrs Walker would like to reach pupils currently not involved. Having asked the girls what they wanted, she is organising a summer football tournament for S1-S3 pupils and considering a request for girls' rugby.

A move away from team games is another option, she believes. A running club and step aerobics are other possibilities.

A swimming club based on the new community pool is a further option. "What we have is quite strong but we definitely need to move into other areas. Not all pupils are team players," Mrs Walker says.

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