Edinburgh's after-school sports clubs: parents ask council to pick up some of costs

Parents angry about a reduction in after-school sport and other activities are asking council chiefs to provide start-up and admin costs to bring back the sessions.

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Parents' groups say Sportscotland's decision to ban all charges for the Active Schools programme, where parents often previously paid a small amount, has led to a drop in what is on offer or shifted the burden of organisation and administration onto parents.

A report to Tuesday's education committee showed the number of clubs run under the Active Schools programme in Edinburgh had fallen by more than 50 per cent from 1007 to 445 between 2019 and 2021, with the number of pupils taking part down from 11,702 to 7,562.

There has been a drop of 50 per cent in the number of Active Schools clubs

A deputation from parent councils across the city appealed to the committee for urgent action to restore opportunities for all state school children to take part in extra-curricular activities.

In particular they called for the council or Sportscotland to fund the start-up costs and hidden running costs of the programme for all schools, including administration, sports kit, training, match/court equipment and upkeep, transport to matches and recruitment of volunteers.

And they asked the council to alleviate the administrative and governance burden, including registration, invoicing, insurance, accounting and bookkeeping.

Rosie O'Halloran, parent council chair at St John’s RC Primary, said although Active Schools ideally wanted all sessions to be run by volunteers, there were "some amazing, skilled sports professionals" training the children and they had to be paid.

But because parents were fundraising for Active Schools, it meant theatre trips did not happen because they could not pay for the buses and other activities also missed out.

"It's just really unfair."

Another parent, Karen Galloway, said the charging ban had been sprung on parent councils without warning.

She said parents supported the aim of making opportunities available for all. “However, it is clear that this objective has been undermined by fundamental flaws in implementation, including; the failure to carry out stakeholder consultation in advance, the absence of any economic or equality impact assessment, the lack of clarity and detail concerning administration and funding, and the lack of notice of the changes to the schools or to families.”

And she said they felt the parent voice remained unheard.

“Despite the best efforts of Active Schools Co-ordinators, the lack of practical support offered by the council has led to an excessive administrative burden being placed on schools and parent councils.

"In practice, it is parent councils or other parent bodies that have either found or been asked to find the immediate shortfall, which can be substantial. In the medium and longer-term we understand it is to be the paying parents who will meet this shortfall. How much the previous average £13 per term will have to increase by is not yet known.”

Tory education spokesman Calum Laidlaw complained details requested at the last committee meeting, including activities on offer, the costs involved and who was funding them, had not been provided.

Education convener Ian Perry said the aim was to return Active Schools provision to pre-Covid levels.

"This is a difficult time for schools, but we’re determined to make things happen. We all want to get to the same place. The important thing is to identify where the barriers are and get them removed as quickly as possible.”

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