An after-school club in Ayrshire is giving inactivity a good shake-up, says Katrina Tweedie
For most Scots, a "shoogle" is a small shake, but for a group of senior pupils running an after-school sports club it signifies a way of tackling the nationwide problem of inactivity. The Shoogle Sports Club, set up by a sixth-year Young Enterprise Company, is attracting dozens of pupils each week with professional coaching in different sports.
The unique club, at Loudoun Academy in Galston, East Ayrshire, has encouraged pupils to get active in a way that curriculum-bound PE classes often fail. Against a backdrop of Government concerns about childhood obesity and lack of exercise, it has even been suggested that youth-led clubs could be an alternative to PE in schools in the future.
"Many of the children have never tried some of the sports on offer, like American football, trampolining, basketball or hockey," says Robert McCallum, a maths teacher and Young Enterprise adviser at the school.
"Hopefully they will get a feel for a sport they really enjoy and may even take it up."
Willie White, project officer for PE at East Ayrshire Council, explains how the idea came about: "It struck me that the enterprise agenda could be a way of delivering enterprise education and physical education for the health agenda," he says. "So we asked the Young Enterprise Company to come up with a physical related enterprise. The project has been so successful we are hoping to roll it out to other secondary schools next year and encourage similar activities."
For the 13 members of Shoogle, it has been an invaluable lesson in business expertise. The company had to investigate the insurance, legal and safety implications of the enterprise, liaise between the PE department and the local council, and find professional coaches.
Initially open only to first and second year pupils, the club has now been extended to include the third year. It attracts around 30 pupils, split evenly between boys and girls - each paying pound;1 for an hour-and-a-half coaching in two different activities every Thursday after school.
Alastair Morton, the 17-year-old managing director, says: "For a lot of younger pupils the school is quite scary and this has helped them settle in. They look up to us and their incentive for coming is to have fun and meet new people.
"PE in class can be a bit rigid and there are more people. This is a smaller group, which we split into two, and although there are rules it is not as strict as school. They don't need to wear uniform and the kids can let themselves go more."
After paying the pound;20 (council-subsidised) fee for coaches, photocopying for posters and branded t-shirts for company members, profits are still mounting in the bank. "You need to be prepared to attend two meetings a week as well as all the work behind the scenes, organising and making sure everyone knows what they are doing," says Alastair. "It amounts to at least three hours every week, so we have agreed that we deserve some kind of wage at the end of the year for all our work."
Gary Laird, one of the regular coaches, says the children are more enthusiastic about the club than about school PE. "They are here because they want to be, not because they have to be," he says.
While it is unlikely that after-school clubs would ever replace PE altogether, Fiona Hunter, Loudoun Academy's principal PE teacher, says they could learn valuable lessons from the enterprise. "Within the school we are bound by the curriculum and although it has been broadened to follow current trends there are still limitations to what we can do," she says. "I think pupils like the choice at Shoogle and the fact that it is not teacher orientated. The fact that they bring in outside coaches is something we will be introducing."
The Young Enterprise Company is now recruiting fifth-year pupils to take over the project when they leave.