THERE is a "clear tension" between setting up elite schools of sport and enhancing sport for the majority of pupils, Karen Gillon, a Labour MSP, has concluded in her parliamentary inquiry into school sport.
Ms Gillon, vice-convener of the education, culture and sport committee, also called for sport to be more closely allied to raising achievement and improving health. "You very frequently have the sport for sport's sake idea that is not tied to the idea of raising achievement," she told MSPs last week.
Ms Gillon's report highlights the divisions in both sport and education about the value of elite schools. Bellahouston Academy in Glasgow is currently the only specialist sports school, attracting a small number of aspiring athletes from around the city to develop skills and potential.
But the Clydesdale MSP warns: "There is a very real tension as regards elite sports schools and what impact they have, not only on pupils who attend them but on the communities they have left. It will take some time in Scotland to establish whether or not our national achievement is increased as a result of the development of an elite sports school and in turn what impact that has on sport more generally."
She adds: "It will also take time to assess the impact of removing elite performers from local schools and determine whether that has an impact on participation and achievement."
After a visit to a community sports college in Manchester, Ms Gillon is now recommending the wider base of the English model of specialist centre that targets all pupils in a school, a stance shared by Sportscotland. She recommends a pilot.
Setting out a strategy that owes much to Sportscotland thinkin, Ms Gillon urges a review of physical education in primaries, better targeting of more varied activities at traditional non-participating groups and full implementation of the sports co-ordinator programme in secondaries.
She also suggests ministers consider a central agency to promote school sport. Present practice is "patchy", she told MSPs.
Charlie Raeburn, chairman of the Scottish Schoolsport Federation, said he was pleased to see Ms Gillon recognise that participation is low in school sport and physical education. "I do not believe evidence of participation stands up to much scrutiny. There is building concern about physical literacy," Mr Raeburn said.
But the report failed to acknowledge the good work of schools and local authorities, he said. Teachers had to be involved in planning initiatives.
His own organisation has urged ministers to set up an agency to develop school sport.
Leader, page 20 HIGHLAND HAS A FLING
The number of Highland secondary pupils who are taking part in sport has increased by almost a third in the first year of the sports co-ordinator scheme.
Joint funding of pound;65,000 by the local authority and Sportscotland has led to the growth of 60 sports in 28 schools.
Boys do more than girls. One in four first and second-year boys takes part, only 15 per cent of girls.
By S3-S4, numbers fall to 20 per cent and 13 per cent and by S5-S6 are down to 13 per cent and 7 per cent.
Glenurquhart High has quadrupled its numbers - up from 94 to 363 - despite having no sports facilities in the school.
The number of pupils who are joining in out-of-hours sports activities at Kinlochbervie High has gone from 40 to 531.