Wipe-out for state school athletes

15th August 1997 at 01:00
Glasgow secondaries are not at the races when it comes to athletics and are being massively outpaced by independent schools in the medal tally at the city championships. The figures underline the continuing difficulties for school sport in the state sector.

Results at the Scottish championships support a similar pattern with the independents again showing strongly. An analysis of the Glasgow track and field athletics championships in May shows that 10 independent schools won 81 per cent of the medals, beating off the challenge from 27 state secondaries. In the relays, not one state school won even a third place in any category. Twelve secondaries sent no athletes to the event.

Writing in The TES Scotland (page four), John Cairney, a retired principal teacher of physical education, calls for swift action to match the success enjoyed by the independent sector. Mr Cairney, a prominent member of the Educational Institute of Scotland and the General Teaching Council, carried out a survey of medal winners after being struck by the independents' domination, especially in boys' individual events and the relays.

He comments: "This is neither in the interests of pupils in the country's largest education authority nor of athletics development in the west of Scotland. There must be a pool of athletics talent in the large number of schools which do not enter pupils in the championships."

Mr Cairney, himself a club runner, says the only state pupils with any chance of success are trained club athletes. Secondaries find it difficult to motivate able pupils to take part in athletics once Standard grade and Higher examinations begin in May.

Other factors are the competitive ethos in fee-paying schools and the rewards in terms of time and money for teachers taking extracurricular clubs.

A TES Scotland analysis of the Scottish championships in June at Meadowbank Stadium shows independent schools doing disproportionately well, picking up 18 first places in the four age categories. State schools won 91. Overall, 248 schools entered: 29 came from the fee-paying sector.

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