Setting up a sports trust has transformed coaching and equipment at Breadalbane Academy
OVER THE past two years Breadalbane Academy in Aberfeldy, Perth and Kinross, has seen a drop in notes from home excusing pupils from PE.
Instead, the students are raring to go.
The transformation is not due to improved PE facilities. In fact, the headteacher, John Low, admits his facilities are pretty awful. Instead, he puts it down to two former students, Robin Yellowlees and Gordon Forbes, both successful within the sports industry.
Two years ago the former pupils met after 26 years through Friends Reunited, but instead of talking about putting the world to rights, they began planning action.
They recognised a common concern about the inactivity of young people in Scotland today and started plotting how to get them off the couch and back onto the playing fields. The result was the Highland Perthshire Sports Trust, which would be linked to their old school. Their first call was to Mr Low.
"I was delighted with the idea," recalls Mr Low. "You don't look a gift horse like that in the mouth."
Since then, the trust has raised pound;30,000 a year for the school. A big chunk comes from Mr Forbes, owner of Ptarmigan Consultants, a sports marketing company. He has promised the trust pound;30,000 over three years, with the rest coming from various sources (see panel).
"Breadalbane is in a mixed comprehensive area," Mr Low says. "We do have low free school meal take-up but there is a lot of poverty in the area, as many parents are involved in the land-based industries or seasonal tourism - 34 per cent of our S5 and S6 receive the school maintenance allowance. I reckon any school could do this if they had the determination and the parents behind them."
Like many schools, Breadalbane, a 3-18 comprehensive serving a rural area covering 1,000 square miles, has a student base reluctant to exercise or compete. So it was decided the money would be spent on changing attitudes.
The first move was to recruit a sports development officer, Andrew Lawson, a professional class one cricket player and coach from South Africa. Over the past two years, he has introduced cricket and rugby to Breadalbane and its associated primaries, run taster sessions and after-school clubs.
Another professional, Gary Bollan, a UEFA coach who played for Rangers, Dundee United and other Scottish teams, now coaches those identified as having sporting potential, while Sian Braine, who played for Sheffield Wednesday's Ladies team, is training the girls.
An evaluation carried out by the school recently showed that 300 primary to S2 pupils are now participating in sport who weren't before, while participation in PE among S1s and S2s has gone up from 85 per cent to 93 per cent.
Already the school has had sporting success. Six players from the coaching programme have progressed onto Perthshire RFC junior teams, while two Breadalbane pupils were selected for Perth and Kinross Cricket. One was consequently selected for the Scotland Under-15 national squad.
HIGHLAND PERTHSHIRE SPORTS TRUST FUNDING
Ptarmigan Consultants pound;30,000 over three years
Breadalbane Academy pound;6,000 per year
Sportscotland pound;6,000 per year matched funding
Gannochy Trust pound;6,000 per year
PTA pound;1,000-pound;2,000 per year
Plus contributions from HPST charity events
Total pound;30,000 a year.