Edinburgh's after-school sports clubs: education bosses claim full programme can be restored despite concerns over charges

Education bosses say they are confident a full programme of after-school sport can be restored across Edinburgh despite concerns over new rules which ban charges being made under the Active School scheme.
A Mini Mudder adventure race was staged at Liberton High School in 2015 under the Active Schools programme    Photo: Neil HannaA Mini Mudder adventure race was staged at Liberton High School in 2015 under the Active Schools programme    Photo: Neil Hanna
A Mini Mudder adventure race was staged at Liberton High School in 2015 under the Active Schools programme Photo: Neil Hanna

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Officials told the education committee coaches could still be paid to work in the city's schools but a new mechanism would have to be found.

Parents say the charging ban has made many sports sessions no longer viable and led to a dramatic drop in the range of extra-curricular activities on offer.

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But interim education director Julien Kramer said: "We believe our programme is sustainable and can be recovered completely. It will require us to be agile and to think things through anew. We need to be thinking and working differently.”

The committee asked for full details at its next meeting of what activities were on offer before the pandemic, what is available now and what charges were involved.

In a written submission to the committee, Towerbank parent group in Portobello said the Active Schools provision for their children had changed from nine clubs at Towerbank and 20 activities in local high schools in 2020 to just six activities in high schools now.

And the group said the solution proposed by their Active Schools co-ordinator (ASC) was to fund the clubs from parent group resources and try to recoup the money through "donations" from parents.

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The group's co-chair Onyema Ibe continued: "We voted not to fund the provision so we are now trying to work out how we can provide activities, delivered by qualified coaches at an acceptable cost.

"The notion that this provision can be replaced by a swarm of volunteers is unrealistic and unsustainable and I would ask, on behalf of our school, that more thought and resources are provided to fund a workable solution that does not decimate this provision across the city."

Green councillor Mary Campbell questioned part of the report to the committee which said no PTAs had been asked to fund shortfalls. She said she was aware of at least two schools where ASCs had asked for funding from the parent councils to resume previous programmes.

Tory education spokesman Callum Laidlaw said he feared the new policy would lead to a wider divide between the sports coaching offered in the private sector and what was available in state schools.

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He said schools, parents groups and clubs were being required to find new ways of working without additional costs. "I think the reality is a lot of them will just say we can't do this and there will be a real drop-off in the offer in our schools."

And Lib Dem Louise Young worried that children’s chances would depend on whether the parent council at their school could afford to pay for activities.

“We run a risk of having a geographical lottery. We shouldn't have a position where a child is going to be affected by what happens to be available in their area.”

Senior education manager David Bruce said the policy was “crystal clear” that the council was not passing on costs to parent bodies.

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"Where an activity requires the payment of a coach that can still happen. ASCs will work with the school and the parent council if that's what they choose.

“The one significant difference there has to be is the payment for that individual comes from the school or the parent council and not the ASC. It's about introducing a mechanism that allows that to happen.”

Education convener Ian Perry said the committee would get a detailed report on provision in December. “Hopefully through that we will get an idea of when we will get back to the pre-pandemic number of activities.”

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A spokesperson for Sportscotland, which helps fund Active Schools, said : “We all want to see as many children and young people as possible taking part in sport and physical activity as part of Active Schools programmes but while we remain in the midst of the pandemic, this will require patience and understanding.

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"Sport and physical activity will play a central role in the nation’s long-term recovery from the pandemic and the delivery of Active Schools programmes for free will ensure this is the case and that no child is left behind.”

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