Pioneering school trust to develop pound;1m dry ski slope

25th May 2012 at 01:00
Community votes with hands and feet on top choices for sports investment

A Scottish school is planning to build its very own dry ski slope at a cost of over pound;1 million after asking local people which sports facilities they would value most.

Perth Grammar plans to fund the work through a charitable sports trust it has set up, which allows it to apply for grants normally closed to schools. The school is thought to be a pioneer in the creation of such a trust to fund its sports facilities and after-school coaching activities.

The local community's top choice was a climbing wall and Perth Grammar's headteacher, John Low, said work had already started on it. Paid for in part with National Lottery money, the pound;81,000 wall is being built in the school's multi-purpose gym hall and should be completed by August.

The most likely spot for the dry ski slope would be a hill at the back of the school that heads down to the North Muirton housing estate, said Mr Low.

At the top of the slope, there would be a ski store and cafe, he envisaged, with the slope being built above these facilities to give it some extra height. Eventually, skiers should be able to wend their way down a 120-metre slope, he said.

Mr Low estimates the ski project will cost around pound;1.25 million but he is confident he can make the business case for the scheme and that ultimately the slope could be a money-spinner for the school.

"Exercise and fitness are great, but this is about more than that. It involves us in our community and hopefully the knock-on effect will be that parents feel more comfortable approaching us and asking questions," he said.

In times of austerity, schools and their facilities could not just be open six hours a day during term time, he added. Schools had to become cleverer in the way they operated - something Perth Grammar and neighbouring St John's Academy had been trying to do for some time.

The two schools share their sports facilities and recently won the school sports category at the Sunday Mail and sportscotland Scottish Sports Awards for their joint sports comprehensive.

St John's was a new school with "wonderful facilities", said Mr Low; its staff would be trained to use the climbing wall alongside Perth Grammar teachers.

Meanwhile, all S5-6 pupils from both schools do core PE at the same time, moving between the schools, depending on the activity. By working together, the schools have also increased opportunities for pupils to take part in sports at lunchtime and after-school clubs.

Perth Grammar undertook a needs analysis of the local community last spring and received some 650 responses.

The survey found that 547 respondents would like to see a climbing wall provided for the Perth Grammar catchment area; 507 wanted an artificial ski slope. The other options were an outdoor floodlit sports area for tennis and ball games (484); a BMX facility (355); and adventure play areas (458).

Sports trust's ups and downs

John Low, headteacher of Perth Grammar, set up his first sports trust when he was head of Breadalbane Academy in Aberfeldy with the help of two former pupils.

When he took charge at Perth Grammar, the opportunities it afforded were too good to miss and the Perth Grammar School Sports Trust was born. The trust took around eight months to establish with the help of a specialist lawyer; it cost around pound;1,500 to set up.

"It seems like an attractive option and it is, but there is a lot of responsibility that comes with the trust," said Mr Low.

There are annual accounts and the taxman had to be kept happy, he explained. "It's a lot of work, but well worth it."

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