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Kick-start for sport in East Lothian

A radical pound;200,000 scheme in East Lothian to offer all pupils aged 10-14 the chance to take part in six sports for a total of 300 hours within curriculum time won provisional backing this week from the Scottish Sports Council.

The move is being hailed as a breakthrough in fitness and health development by the Labour-controlled council and is a direct consequence of the break-up of local government.

Dr Ian Thomson, formerly of Stirling University and the scheme's architect, said: "It is the first opportunity since 1974 to integrate sport with education and it is the first time in my life that a local authority has taken such a visionary view about how you fuse educa-tion and sport. It is tremendously exciting."

East Lothian has been planning for six months to overhaul sports development under an integrated education and community services department, precisely the type of arrangement in small authorities recommended by the Government and some senior local government figures.

A "curriculum entitlement" will enable children from primary 6 to the second year of secondary to take part in football, rugby, hockey, badminton, volleyball and swimming. One target is for every pupil to be able to swim by the age of 14.

Six "sports specific" officers will work with physical education teachers in the six secondary schools within the council's boundaries from August. They will offer a core curriculum of sports within PE - for around 75 per cent of the time - and support extra-curricular participation.

Alan Blackie, East Lothian's director of education and community services, said: "It will give young people opportunities they perhaps did not have before unless they were very good. We want to increase participation levels because we are concerned about levels of physical activity. But we also want to nurture talent and give young people the chance to shine at East Lothian level."

The scheme has been financed by using sports development funds from the previous district council and Lothian Region, topped up by contributions from the governing bodies of the six sports and possibly the Sports Council.

Jim Farry, chief executive of the Scottish Football Association, and Jim Telfer, national coaching director of the Scottish Rugby Union, have already given their backing. It is hoped to introduce other sports and to make substantial improvements to sports facilities.

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