PUPILS in Inverclyde have not traditionally been exposed to a wide variety of sports.
"It has tended to be football, football and football," says Jack Whiteford, development officer for PE and health. "So we're trying to widen the choice.
"Last month along with the Scottish Rugby Union we organised a festival of rugby for first-year boys and girls, 20 from each of Inverclyde's eight secondaries. They descended on Greenock Wanderers Rugby Club and enjoyed a day of coaching and playing. We had a similar event back in May with the primary kids, and they now have a mini rugby club in Port Glasgow, with about 40 of them coming along every Saturday.
"We're also organising curling, swimming and tennis events - getting the kids along, coaching them, letting them try it.
"I must admit I had reservations about some of our wee girls playing rugby, " says Yvonne Robertson, Inverclyde Council's chair of education. "But it was terrific to watch, like light switches being turned on. The children were having a great time and they got tremendous support from the SRU coaches. And it's not just about fitness and sport for its own sake. It's about young people behaving in a positive way, which carries over into better behaviour, improved concentration and self-esteem.
"In Inverclyde there are quite large pockets of deprivation, with all the related health problems. So introducing children to healthy lifestyles, regular exercise and sport has to be a plus. And we need to get them started at an early age so it becomes a way of life."