Lottery funding is slowly helping school facilities to improve. Roddy Mackenzie reports
The line between dream and reality is a thin one for Dalziel High, Motherwell. In its centenary year, it has opened facilities it could previously only have dreamt about.
Within two years, it is anticipated there will be three football pitches, three rugby pitches, an athletics track, an indoor training centre, three all-weather five-a-side pitches and two all-weather footballhockey pitches.
With state-of-the-art changing rooms and floodlighting, it is not difficult to see why Motherwell Football Club is looking at using the facilities.
The only trouble is that the fields are not on Dalziel's doorstep. They lie at Cleland Estate five miles away. But, as Alistair Stewart, head of physical education, says, you can't have everything.
The school was faced with a dilemma a few years ago. Having been given a 190-acre site by the Colville family as a living memorial to the war dead, the cost of maintaining the site was crippling.
"In 1991, there were eight football pitches, seven rugby pitches and three hockey pitches as well as an ash running track," Mr Stewart explained. "But, with the money available, all that was done in terms of maintenance was to put posts in and cut the grass. Most of the pitches were in a poor state with bad drainage and something had to be done."
The War Memorial Trust sold off about 150 acres for housing development which enabled funds to be put into reconstructing the sports facilites on the remaining 35-acre site.
"Of the facilities we had, I'd say only one football pitch and one rugby pitch were of a decent standard," said headteacher Brian Miller. "Of the 190 acres we had, about 160 were virtually no good for us. Some of the grass was so long, you could lose children!" With help from the Lottery (pound;290,000), Foundation for Sport and the Arts (pound;40,000) and the Football Trust (pound;40,000), Cleland Estate has been transformed.
"It was hard work. Every time we thought a door was opening a little, it would slam shut in our faces again. But we just kept on knocking until we were allowed in," Mr Miller added. Local agencies assisted.
"It has been eight very hard years but, within a couple of years, we'll have the best sports facilities of any school in the country.
"We have even been able to upgrade our original proposals. We needed something in Motherwell after all the doom and gloom of Ravenscraig. This has provided a focus and I think we're the envy of every school in Scotland," Mr Miller said.
The facilities should prove self-financing. Pitches will be hired out and a proportion of profit for plots sold by the housing developer also goes to the trust to put back into the sports facilities.
"The alternative for us would have been to close Cleland," concluded Mr Miller. "That would have been tragic considering that it was set up to be a living memorial for the children to use."