Teachers absent from debate on a British academy;Sport in Scotland

26th January 1996 at 00:00
"You have to start at the bottom in order to have Olympic medallists and world champions," top athletics coach John Anderson says. Anderson, last week appointed team manager to Scotland's athletics squad for the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, was speaking at a consultation meeting at Murrayfield on the proposed British Academy of Sport.

The idea of an academy was first mooted by the Government in a policy statement entitled Sport - Raising the Game. The Murrayfield meeting is part of the consultation process being conducted by the British Sports Council.

The process, however, is due to end on January 31 and considerable disquiet was expressed at the early cut-off and on the proposed emphasis on elite performers.

Such anxieties were shared by Charlie Raeburn, chairman of Scottish Schools Sports. His body's response is likely to be the most significant. "I think it will be down to us," Raeburn said afterwards. "I understand there were hardly any schoolteachers at the consultation meeting. The real people who deliver seldom seem to get to these meetings. The system doesn't encourage it."

Scottish Schools Sports has produced a paper on the possibility of designating "sports schools" within the state sector although, as Raeburn points out, the Murrayfield meeting did not tie in directly with that. "I am concerned that this should be done right and not be rushed into," he continued. "I am worried that the hidden agenda may be to copy the centralised Australian Institute of Sport, although the Sports Council should have got the message that people want to see it more on a network basis."

Concentration on elite performers is also a concern for Raeburn. "What happens to them has a knock-on effect on everyone else and I am not convinced that the foundations are right. We haven't got to base one yet. Not every kid has the chance to take part and there are no signs of an improvement in conditions for teachers to help.

"There may be money going to the very top but not to ordinary kids which I would have thought the most important thing to start with."

Other issues include who should run the academy and how it should be funded, although National Lottery money would undoubtedly be one of the main sources of finance.

According to Anita White of the Sports Council's steering committee, it is hoped to announce the location in September. However, if the reaction of the delegates at Murrayfield is anything to go by the consultation process will last longer and the academy will not be restricted to one site.

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