The Scottish Rugby Union has announced that the first round ties for the 21st season of the Bell Lawrie White Scottish Schools Cup competition have to be completed by September 25 and the first four rounds should be played by November 26.
After the success of the under-18 cup, Bell Lawrie White will also sponsor a new under-15 schools cup competition this season.
Seventy-six schools have signed up, 58 from the state sector. And the senior competition continues to set records, with 94 taking part this year.
The finals of both competitions will be played as a double-header at Murrayfield, probably on January 27. The seniors' Plate final will be played on February 2 and the Bowl final on February 9.
As the SRU seeks to attract more young players, it has established the Thistle Rugby Trust to organise and develop under-18 club and schools rugby. A six-figure sum has been set aside to promote age-grade programmes and increase participation.
The SRU says the number of boys playing club and schools rugby has increased 31 per cent over the past five years and entries for the Bell Lawrie Schools Cup have gone up by 57 per cent in the past two years.
The attention to the youth game has won praise from Kenny Logan, Scotland's most capped rugby winger. "I remember being involved with the age-group sides while I was at school. It gave you something to focus on and meant you could see your route to the top of the game, all the way to playing for Scotland," he says. "The Thistle Rugby Trust will make that route all the clearer for the new generation of rugby players."