Roddy Mackenzie reports on a new youth strategy for the millennium
The Scottish Sports Council is to launch a new youth strategy to create "obstacle-free pathways" for children to reach their full potential in sport.
The council's "Sport 21" consultation document, published this week, acknowledges that there has been "little or no increase in the amount of core PE within the school week" and "little progress on the recommendation to review teachers' contracts and make appropriate changes to recognise extended curriculum contributions".
An HMI report on PE in secondary schools recommended last year that teachers should develop and promote links with clubs to offer extracurricular activities and to develop personal excellence. The council admits there is room for improvement in that area.
On a positive note, the document states that in Grampian and Tayside a percentage of PE time is devoted to sports development.
The new strategy aims to encourage pupils in the 5-14 age-group to become involved in sport and to develop pathways that allow them to remain involved in sport and to raise their performance. It is hoped a national policy framework on youth sport development will emerge.
The key areas will be to maintain the marked increase in the number of sports development officers and to see a continued improvement in facilities. The National Lottery is a likely source of funding.
The new youth sport plan will bring together Team Sport Scotland, Club Sport Scotland, School Sport Scotland, Start Young and Stay Active (a joint venture with Fitness Scotland and the Health Education Board), Ready, Willing and Able (for people with disabilities) and Coaching Scotland.
Hilary Campbell, the council's head of policy, says: "We will listen to what everyone has to say and then draft a strategy for Scottish sport in the new millennium. It will go out for written consultation and to a national seminar on November 15 in Glasgow. Hopefully everyone will be happy with it."
But who will foot the bill for such an ambitious venture? Campbell says: "We hope we can encourage private sector funding or encourage local authorities into partnership funding. One of the key back-up factors is the strong political support from the recent publication of Scotland's Sporting Future by the Scottish Office. The school-club link is there, the importance of in-service coaching and training for teachers and also the use of school facilities.
"Basically, we hope we can end up with a much more co-ordinated and focused approach to sport in Scotland so that people are clear about who does what and who has responsibility for what and who goes where and when."
Eddie McConnell, senior development officer for youth sport, adds: "We are clearly acknowledging that physical education and sport are two different things and I think this is appreciated by people involved in physical education. That acknowledgement from us to the various groups we have been working with has really helped shift the relationship forward much more positively.
"The six components that are identified within the youth sport strategy must never be seen as separate programmes working in isolation. The one thing I am clear about is that we fall at the first hurdle if we present them as a series of separate issues."
Charles Raeburn, chairman of Schools Sports Scotland, welcomed the new strategy and said: "I have still to see a copy of the document but it is a positive step if it acknowledges the difference between PE and sport."
The message on consultation is: "It's not just the council's document, it's everyone's document. It is their chance to shape the future of Scottish sport for the next decade."
Consultations will be held in Glasgow (City Chambers, March 25, 2pm-5.30pm, 7pm-9.30pm); Edinburgh (Traverse Theatre, March 29, 2pm-5.30pm); Aberdeen (Arts Centre, April 11, 2pm-5.30pm); Dundee (West Park Centre, April 22, 2pm-5.30pm); Dumfries (Regional Chambers, April 29, 2pm-5.30pm); Shetland (Clickimin Centre, May 1, 2pm-5.30pm); Orkney (Stromness Academy, May 2, 2pm-5.30pm); Stornoway (Town Hall, May 8, 2pm-5.30pm); Benbecula (Sgoil Lionacleit, May 9, 7pm-9.30pm).