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Gold-plated advice for life

Mentors from the world of sport are helping pupils to set their goals in a range of essential skills, reports Jackie Cosh

Mentors from the world of sport are helping pupils to set their goals in a range of essential skills, reports Jackie Cosh

"Input equals output," the class is told. "You will get out what you put in." The speaker should know. Athlete Steve Frew has represented Scotland and Britain more than 100 times at international gymnastics competitions, and in 2002 became the first Commonwealth Games winner for Scotland when he won gold in the men's rings.

But it was not without effort, and this is the message he is trying to put across today. We are at Linlithgow Academy and the eight third-year students from the PE performance-only class have received a visit from Steve in his role as athlete mentor for the Sky Sports Living for Sport project, run in partnership with the Youth Sport Trust.

A full day of activity is planned, but first Steve spends an hour talking to the pupils about the various keys to success. "What barriers do you face?" he puts to them. "How can you overcome these barriers?"

The boys are responsive, and not just in relation to sports. Steve makes them see that whether it is preparing for a football match or applying for the Army, it is their attitude that counts.

His visit marks the halfway point in the project. Over the past five weeks, the boys have spent an hour a week on team-building exercises. In addition to this, one pupil per week is taken by PE teacher Gary MacBrayne to assist him in working with the S1s. "Each week when I am taking the first-years, one of the boys comes in and acts as my assistant," says Mr MacBrayne. "It gives them responsibility and respect, as well as ownership.

"They work directly with the first-years, doing demonstrations, giving feedback. They act as role models, and hopefully this will transfer into other areas of their life. The first-years see them and look up to them. The key is learning skills which are transferable to other subjects."

The class is made up of pupils who will be taking seven examinable subjects instead of eight. But, as Mr MacBrayne says, it includes some talented individuals and a few are to play in the Scottish Schools Cup final at Tynecastle the following night.

Mr MacBrayne cites the importance of the team-building classes. "It helps them understand rules, responsibility, fair play, team-playing, encouragement, discipline," he says.

While feedback is still to be sought from their other class teachers, in the PE department the change has certainly been noticed. "We have seen a big difference," says Mr MacBrayne. "They were wary at first, but they have taken to it. What worked well was that I have a relationship with them outside school through football. They are a lively bunch, but when they worked with the first-years, they found it a daunting experience as they had no peers.

"They are keeping on task. In class, they have to wear their Sky for Sports T-shirt and set up the class. Preparation to these guys can be a big thing and I am going to rotate who is team captain. It is up to him to set things up for the class."

While Mr MacBrayne and his assistant are working with the first years, Valerie Baynham is taking the rest of the class. She says: "They used to come to the department and there would be conflict, but they have had a positive experience with us. This has built up their self-esteem, their listening, respect for others and for the teacher."

Today has proved a real boost. "They were excited about the visit today. I could see them responding and identifying the six stages. The issue is that they can switch off, but today they were asking questions," says Mr MacBrayne.

In June, he is planning a school football tournament, with the class taking charge of all the preparation. "Two will be in charge of publicity, organising the newsletter," he says. "One will be getting teams together, deciding whether to opt for a round robin or knockout; another one will organise equipment. They are more than capable from what I have seen so far."

Steve Frew has been visiting schools for two years. "I wanted to give something back, to use my experience as an athlete and gold medallist," he says. "I think if you can see the difference in one child, the visit has been worthwhile."


Sky Sports Living for Sport is a free initiative available to every school in the UK. All entrants receive a free Living for Sport T-shirt and a one- day visit from an athlete mentor.


"Teaching first years was quite good. Teaching folk younger than you was fine because they are younger and so you don't get embarrassed. It makes you think in a team and not just for yourself. It makes you think that you need to focus on a subject and that you still need qualifications. I want to be a professional footballer, so I need to stand out more and practise more."

Steven Cairns, 14

"We learned about people skills and about working together. I want to try to get good grades so I can join the Army. I learned that lack of focus could prevent this and that family support could help."

Nick McCartney, 14.

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