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Sporting chance sets new pace for specialist schools

SPORTS comprehensives at three North Lanarkshire secondary schools are making "considerable progress", the authority reports.

The initiative, centred on Braidhurst High in Motherwell, St Margaret's High in Airdrie and St Maurice's High in Cumbernauld, was taken as an early step in efforts to make the comprehensive system more diverse and give incentives to raise all-round achievement.

Every pupil has a chance to participate in specialist activities and the initiative is likely to be emulated in other areas such as music, art and technology. It is meant to be distinct from what the authority describes as the "elite" approach adopted elsewhere, a swipe at developments such as the specialist school of sport at Bellahouston Academy in Glasgow which is open only to gifted youngsters.

The project involves offering core PE to all pupils with certificate programmes in S3-S6. It also aims to boost PE in local primaries, promote healthy lifestyles and provide a wider range of sports activities.

A report to North Lanarkshire's education committee this week stated: "From the outset, progress in each of the three schools has far exceeded expectations, thanks to the commitment and support of the headteachers, and the energy and enthusiasm of the key staff." Among the achievements are:

* Strong links forged with neighbouring schools.

* Club links being developed.

* Fuller involvement with local primaries.

* Out of school hours activities flourishing.

* Connections being made with other areas of the curriculum.

All three schools report positive reactions from parents and pupils as well as staff.

The council will now move to improve sports facilities at the schools, for use during the pupil day and after hours, with the help of part of a pound;6 million grant from the New Opportunities Fund.

The three schools are also to receive a classroom assistant each.

Revised national sport targets highlight the use of facilities outside the curriculum, access to clubs and the need for more coaches. Sportscotland believes sport outside school hours can promoted better health, increase attainment and cut crime.

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