(Photograph) - "It's been a roaring success at our school. It's one of the best things we've ever done." This testimonial to the Community Sports Leadership Award comes from Richard Brown, head of physical education at Smithdon High School in Hunstanton, writes Diane Spencer.
The award, which he has been running this year, is organised by the Central Council of Physical Recreation, and is designed to increase the number and quality of voluntary sports leaders. It is not meant to improve technical proficiency in a particular sport, but aims to develop confidence, communication skills, ability and willingness to take responsibility.
The CSLA scheme in Norfolk is different from the dozens in the rest of the country because it is part of Make a Difference, a Home Office initiative launched in March 1994 to promote volunteering.
The CCPR won a bid to set up two schemes - the other is in the London borough of Hackney -with a Pounds 20,000 grant which enabled the council, for the first time, to co-ordinate a comprehensive CSLA programme in schools, colleges, the youth service and sports development teams. It is the only sports-related project out of 27 in the Home Office scheme.
Nearly three-quarters of the secondary schools in the borough of King's Lynn and West Norfolk are taking part in the scheme, involving some 230 students. It is co-ordinated by Roger Partridge, the county council's sports development officer, who calls it "a cracking course. People love to play sport, but we need organisers - the more they get involved, the more sport we can offer, " he said.
At Smithdon, Mr Brown put 15 Year 11 students through their paces every Tuesday lunchtime and Friday mornings for 15 weeks. To gain the award, candidates have to complete at least 10 hours of voluntary service, preferably out of school. The vast majority managed to do so, working with Scouts or local clubs. "It was difficult for some in the remoter rural areas. Not a lot goes on in somewhere like Docking."
The Tuesday sessions were "very didactic" - getting the information over, while Fridays were devoted to practical problem-solving. How to organise a knock-out tennis tournament for 42 people on eight courts over four days, for example. First aid, taught by the school nurse, is one of seven components in the course. "Know your friends" is another unit taken by Mr Partridge. He told them about career opportunities, how to develop local contacts and the kind of contributions they could make to the community.
The CCPR will be setting up a data base of trained sports volunteers as part of Make a Difference, and hopes that the project will be a blueprint for other boroughs.
The CSLA, which began in 1981, is now the largest leadership qualification in the UK with around 20,000 a year graduating. Nearly half continue to work in the community. The Home Office has only funded the two CCPR projects for one year, but Peter Hart, the project officer, hopes that officialdom will see what good value they are and keep on supporting them. "The kids put in hours of free training. While they're doing that they're not breaking windows."
He is also hopeful of the Prime Minister, who told the party faithful in Birmingham in April that he would be announcing "a comprehensive programme for voluntary service" in June.
John Major said it would cover all ages. "It will be the most far-reaching initiative ever. Not a centralised plan to compete with private effort - but one that will reach into the wellsprings of goodwill that are found in literally every street of our land."
Mr Hart hopes it will reach the offices of the CCPR.
Information on the CSLA is available from the CCPR, Francis House, Francis Street, London SW1P 1DE.