Raymond Ross on a sports scheme that hopes to reach every primary by the year 2002
A new sports programme being run in 100 primary schools by the Scottish Sports Council could be in every primary school in Scotland within five years, if the council gets its way.
Top Play and BT Top Sport schemes were first introduced in England three years ago, and are now being phased in north of the border by Team Sport Scotland, the SSC's youth sport unit, with resources from the Youth Sport Trust, a UK-registered charity.
Top Play introduces core skills and fun sports to four to nine-year-olds. The skills are running and jumping, throwing and catching, striking and kicking, travelling with a ball and receiving a ball. BT Top Sport introduces basketball, cricket, hockey, netball, rugby and tennis to seven to 11-year-olds. The two schemes are being promoted as a single package.
Every primary school taking part receives a Top Play equipment bag and resource cards plus one of the BT Top Sport bags and resource cards.
The Scottish programme is being carefully phased in through school curricular time as part of 5-14 physical education, before moving to after-school activities, says Stewart Harris, head of Team Sport Scotland.
The first phase of the programme took in schools in Renfrewshire, Scottish Borders, Angus, Stirling and East Lothian. Schools in Edinburgh and Glasgow are now coming on board. As local authorities have a major role to play in ensuring the success of the programme, their commitment is vital - schools cannot apply to join directly.
Eamon John, principal officer for sports development in East Lothian, says: "Because of our commitment to sport in education, we had specific criteria already in place.
"We have a full team of sports specific development officers and have retained all our visiting PE specialists as part of our own sports strategy. This scheme supplements the work we're already doing."
It is a principle of the scheme that it enhances rather than replaces the current curriculum and is tailored to the needs of the 5-14 guidelines. In East Lothian already nine primaries and two nurseries are involved; the authority hopes to introduce the scheme into every primary by 2000.
For schools to be accepted, they must have a good working relationship with associated primaries and secondaries, have a supportive headteacher and a named PE co-ordinator in the school. Expressive arts must be identified as a subject in the school's development, with a PE allocation of time, staffing, in-service and resource provision. The school must commit itself to using the resources and to sending at least two staff members to a special training session.
"The strength of the programme is in the training rather than the equipment and resources," says Mr Harris. "Often primary teachers don't feel confident about teaching PE, but hopefully this access to training will become an annual event and not just a one-off.
"The resource cards have been endorsed by all the appropriate sports bodies, with the exception of football," says Mr Harris.
Half the funding for the programme comes from the Sports Council and the Youth Sport Trust, with Pounds 750,000 backing from BT sponsorship. The other half is provided by the local authorities.
Interested authorities should contact the Scottish Sports Council at Caledonia House, South Gyle, Edinburgh EH12 9DQ, tel: 0131 317 7200