PAYING teachers to take schools rugby would be divisive and set sport against sport, the Scottish School Sports Federation has warned Murrayfield following the report of the independent inquiry into the crisis in the game.
Scotland may have won the last international championship of the 20th century but the inquiry team, headed by Lord Mackay of Clashfern, the former Lord Chancellor, says the future is bleak without further measures to lift the number of school players. Proportionately, far fewer boys play in Scotland than in rival nations.
Lord Mackay's panel recommends the Scottish Rugby Union should press the Scottish Executive to allow schools to pay teachers to take teams. Alternatively, the panel suggests they could be given time off in lieu if they turn out after school and at weekends.
However, Charlie Raeburn, chairman of the umbrella school sports federation, cautioned that rugby should not go it alone. Senior Murrayfield figures, including Jim Telfer, SRU director of rugby and former secondary headteacher, have argued for some remuneration.
But Mr Raeburn warned: "There have to be links with what the whole school world is doing, otherwise we will have one sport set against another. There are already enough divisions between sport and music and sport and homework clubs without different sports competing."
He added: "Where there is external money available it should link in with other investment. It would be helpful if they (the SRU) could contribute towards a scheme that covered a range of sports. This is part of a big debate."
The federation does not want payment for teachers but calls for a staffing element for each school to provide a full extended curriculum. Team sports such as rugby would benefit.
The SRU has taken its lead from the independent sector where staff often have extracurricular duties written into their contracts. Judith Sischy, director of the Scottish Council of Independent Schools, said few schools paid extra for specific activities, although around half paid above the going rate. "They would be expected or required to take part in extracurricular activities considered a normal part of the curriculum," Mrs Sischy said.
Staff were given allowances of 2-6 per cent above recommended salary levels for their additional contribution. This can be worth up to pound;1,000.
Robin Easton, rector of Glasgow High, one of the schools which does pay for specific duties, said games assistants were rewarded for voluntary activity after school and at weekends, depending on the extent of their contribution. He declined to reveal the sums involved.
Rugby assistants could be paid for nine months but cricket assistants for three. "It's not a payment for hours worked. It's a gesture to those who give extra time," Mr Easton said.
Lord Mackay's report also refers to the split between rugby authorities, including the Scottish Schools Rugby Union, and the independent sector over the blueprint for schools' rugby launched last year. The SRU came out on the side of close links between clubs and schools.
The inquiry team observes that independent schools - a bastion of rugby - have yet to agree to the structures and a revised representative format.
Mr Easton replied: "We think the SRU is club oriented rather than school oriented in its discussions about the future. There is real concern that the SRU wants to do away with the schools body. We want the whole thing kept in perspective and we do not want too great a burden on boys.
"It's not the be all and end all of education."
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