The Schools Cup has been going for 23 years but it is only since financial advisers Bell Lawrie started sponsoring it six years ago that participation has increased significantly. The competition has been dominated by private schools but more state schools are taking part and now contribute 77 per cent of the entry. The geographic spread of entries is also heartening, with teams from as far as Shetland to Newton Stewart in the south-west.
Colin Thomson, the Scottish Rugby Union's head of community rugby, made the announcement at the draw for the new season, which took place at Drumchapel High in Glasgow, demonstrating how rugby is becoming more inclusive.
"Scottish Rugby is a game open to people from every community and background and that's reflected in the entry," he said.
"We have 17 new schools competing this year, including Drumchapel High, who are joining forces with Rosshall Academy to enter a combined team."
The growth at under-18 level is mirrored in the under-15 tournament, which is only in its third year and has a record entry of 92 schools. "For Scottish rugby to look forward to a vibrant future we need to increase playing numbers and replicate the tremendous rise in participants that we've seen in the Schools Cup," Mr Thomson said.
The SRU is offering joint courses in coaching and refereeing at venues across the country for those interested in taking primary children. A foundation day course costs pound;30.