Young sports enthusiasts in East Lothian could get extra coaching under a new council plan. David Henderson reports. Talented youngsters in East Lothian could become the first in Scotland to get the extra time and coaching they need to become sports stars under a council plan to emulate the specialist dance and music secondaries in Glasgow and Edinburgh.
At the launch of its radical sports development strategy on Wednesday, previewed in The TES Scotland (February 23), the council revealed plans to set up specialist sports schools in two of its six secondaries.
A small number of 16-year-olds about to enter S5 could transfer from their own school to a specialist unit in another secondary. They would live at home but be given free travel.
The council wants to keep young sportsmen and women in East Lothian and promote sporting excellence. Pupils would be able to spread their S5S6 courses over two years to allow them coaching and practice time.
"An extreme example would be academic work from 9am to 12.30pm daily, followed by sports training in the afternoons. The essence of a pupilathlete-centred approach would be to ensure that each young person achieved his or her full sporting and academic performance," according to the document.
The initiative would be supported by up to six sports development officers, jobs created by the council to strengthen links between education, sport and leisure and recreation.
Staff would be available to support physical education teachers in curriculum time and out of school, organise age-group squads, promote youth sections in clubs and appoint coaches for talented youngsters.
Another major feature of the programme is sporting entitlement for all pupils aged 10-14. As fitness levels among the young have allegedly dropped alarmingly, the council wants to reverse the trends by guaranteeing access to six core sports within the later stages of primary and the first two years of secondary. Football, hockey, rugby, badminton, volleyball and swimming have been identified as key sports.
An essential part of the scheme is likely to be 30 minutes of physical education every day in primaries with teachers supported by visiting PE specialists. Mini-sports or small-sided games would be encouraged.
In secondaries, East Lothian wants every pupil to receive two hours PE every week. "The optimum goal is that every pupil aged 10-14 will be entitled to 40 hours for each of the six core sports in curriculum time," the document says.
The council admits it is "unrealistic" to pay teachers for out-of-hours work but says they could be given time off in lieu. Some of the extra time they give to sport could be recognised as part of their contractual time.
Giving teachers voluntary fees or honoraria - as the independent schools do - is also being considered but it is regarded as a less favoured option.
"Answers must be found for teachers who ask how they and schools will benefit from the council's sports development plans," the document says.