Open all hours for learning

A visit by the Sports Minister to Denmark underlined how far Scotland lags behind Europe. David Henderson reports

Since 92 per cent of Danish women work, it is hardly surprising that after-school clubs are now a feature of the education system. More than 100,000 children are in all-year provision, backed by nearly 8,500 fully qualified staff, all subject to a three-year training programme.

At Soborg School in Gladsaxe, outside Copenhagen, Sam Galbraith, Sports and Children's Minister, found staffing levels way beyond anything in Scotland. The 480-pupil school, for ages five to 15, has 42 teachers and 22 after-school care workers.

Some 225 children go to two age-group clubs straight after school. Space was created in spare classrooms as pupil rolls fell.

Mr Galbraith is keen to see a similar system develop in Scotland but knows there is no chance of parallel funding.

At Soborg, the clubs open at 6am before school, reopen at 11.30am for the youngest and stay open to 5pm. A youth club runs in the evening. Mogens Almgren-Jensen, the headteacher, said almost all young children attend.

Parents pay Pounds 900 a year at Soborg, with the rest of the Pounds 2, 760 met by the local council. The club for older children, run more as a youth club, costs parents Pounds 264 a year. Parents in financial difficulties are supported.

There is no homework in the clubs, a fact that surprised Mr Galbraith, and they are largely recreational and creative, with a degree of non-organised sport. Trips and adventures are a regular feature.

* There have been no cuts in Aalborg's spending on leisure and recreation in recent years. Edinburgh's twin town does not share any of the anxieties of Scottish councils where year upon year of cuts has forced hikes in charges to pay for facilities. It prefers not to run sports or leisure services, and funds voluntary clubs in a tradition that dates back 100 years.

Kristian Moller, head of the leisure department, says: "We believe in people, people can do it themselves and they want to do it. If we get them facilities and a little bit of money, they can do it."

It takes a minimum of five people in a club to attract a council grant. A club must have a democratic structure, hold annual elections and present accounts.

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