Every secondary school could soon have an extracurricular sports co-ordinator and a reinvigorated after-school programme following the Prime Minister's decision to release lottery money for school sport. Around #163;30 million will be available nationally and Scotland is certain to claim about #163;3 million.
A Scottish Office spokesman confirmed the Scottish Secretary had invited the Scottish Sports Council to draw up a package of measures to support sport in schools, based on lottery funds. Labour would be unlikely to reverse the decision.
Charlie Raeburn, chairman of Scottish School Sport, the umbrella organisation for school sports associations which has long argued for better funding, described the move as "an exciting first step".
Stewart Harris, director of the Team Sport initiative at the Scottish Sports Council, responded swiftly and backed the proposal to have co-ordinators in every secondary. Any Scottish scheme will differ from developments south of the border where hundreds of new community sports coaches will be recruited to tour schools.
Mr Harris said: "There are volunteers in schools willing to do work. People are willing to give time up, it is the administration that goes with it that puts people off. It needs co-ordination, management and commitment from schools and agencies."
The sports council is already developing pilot sports co-ordinator programmes at Renfrew High and Banchory Academy and believes the model could be replicated. Other secondaries such as Tain Royal Academy have created non-contact time for staff to organise sport.
Government proposals are still at the outline stage and it is understood it could take some time to change the lottery rules. However, the initial strict guidelines that cash should only go towards capital projects has already been significantly relaxed because of the growing success of the lottery.
Reports around Christmas suggested the Government was prepared to commit #163;1.5 billion in lottery funding for sports and arts projects involving young people. The Treasury was said to be concerned about the proposal and a more modest scheme has now emerged.
Mr Raeburn nevertheless welcomed any new injection of funds. "I am excited at last that we have a serious interest," he said. His organisation hoped to be involved in talks with the Sports Council, Scottish Office and sports bodies in a bid to widen the focus from sports co-ordinators. Other models were possible, he suggested.
On the projected funds for Scotland, up to one day a week in non-contact time could be available for each school, releasing staff to organise teams,matches and other activities.
Mr Raeburn suggested lottery cash could cover transport for after-school activities, funding for local school sports associations to stage events and staff development for teachers who want to contribute. Extra cash could also go towards links with local sports clubs.
The sports council observed that before the project at Renfrew High "the only evening activity in the gymnasium was men behaving badly at five-a-side football". Now sports clubs run every night of the week offering hockey, volleyball, basketball, athletics, dance, aerobics, gymnastics, short tennis, netball and football. Local primaries also join in.
The sports co-ordinator has a full day spread in blocks to plan and organise sports provision.