Demands to restore access to after-school sports clubs

Council chiefs have been urged to take urgent action after a dramatic reduction in after-school sports clubs across the city – caused by a decision to ban charges.
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Critics say that Sportscotland policy, followed by the city council, to insist its Active Schools programme is free for all has made many sporting sessions no longer viable. This has left many children without any access to extracurricular activities.

Opposition councillors are now demanding a full review of how many classes have been cut, and called for action to ensure activities can be provided again.

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There has been a reducation in the number of after-school clubs providedThere has been a reducation in the number of after-school clubs provided
There has been a reducation in the number of after-school clubs provided

This issue will be debated by the education committee on Tuesday.

Co-chair of Stockbridge Primary School’s parent council Jenny Litster said that when her daughter returned to school after the summer break she was surprised to find the clubs she had previously enjoyed were no longer being held.

Before the pandemic, Stockbridge Primary School pupils had access to a full range of sports clubs after school, either on its own premises or with other local primary school children at a nearby high school - at a cost of just a couple of pounds per class.

Now, there are just three extracurricular classes on offer to children from the school – down from 17 – and none operating under the Active Schools banner.

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It is understood that while there was no formal announcement that councils had to stop charging parents for classes, Sportscotland is thought to have encouraged councils to make classes in the Active Schools programme free to users as far as possible this year in a bid to increase physical activity in children after months of lockdowns.

The issue will be debated by the education committee today

Ahead of tomorrow’s education committee meeting, Tory councillor Phil Doggart has demanded the council provides more information about changes to delivery of sporting activities, so the council can start working out how to get delivery back to the “right level”.

Mr Doggart said: “We are asking for a report to come back in two meetings time that is really looking at what was being delivered and what is being delivered now.

“We also want to know what the options are for making sure delivery continues at the same level as anything that stops access to sporting activity is going to have a detrimental impact on health and well-being.

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“We need to know what is not going to be provided (under new rules) and what it would require to get service back to the right level.

Mr Doggart went on to warn that these changes will impact low-income families most and has called for a rethink of tact.

“Anything that stops access to sporting activity is going to have a detrimental impact on health and well-being and has to be discouraged.”

Council defend changes

The council’s education, children and families convener, Ian Perry, said removing fees for all sporting activity complements the council’s approach to “poverty proofing” the school day.

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He said: “Our Active Schools team are responsible for ensuring as many opportunities in physical activity and sport are offered to all children and young people across the city. Sportscotland have said that Active Schools activity should be free which complements our approaches to poverty proof the school day and the Council’s commitment to end poverty in Scotland’s capital city by 2030.”

The councillor went on to say that reduction in the number of activities offered was “inevitable”.

Mr Perry said: “In the past 18 months it was inevitable the number of activities on offer would be reduced.

“However we are committed to doing our utmost to reinstate the opportunity for as many of these to be available through our After School programmes and school led extracurricular activities which will take time.

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“Our Active Schools team will also continue to be in schools during the day for pupils in need of support and who benefit most from taking part thus narrowing the gap between those who can and cannot access physical activity.”

The council’s education, children and families vice convener Alison Dickie, said the Active Schools team is working with schools, clubs and coaches to secure as many opportunities as they can as recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic continues.

She said: “Extra-curricular activities and wider achievements play a huge role in the holistic education of our children and young people, and they have been sorely missed. Our Active Schools team will be working with schools, clubs and coaches to secure as many opportunities as they can and work towards a full recovery of the level of opportunity that existed before the pandemic.

“So we can support the interests and recovery of every child we have to ensure what we offer is wider than just sports. This is why we are proposing a wider achievement plan which complements our Edinburgh Learns for Life strategy. Key activities will include art and creative learning, developing skills for learning, life and work, sport and outdoor learning, youth work and family learning. This means we will be able to join up what is happening both within and outwith school for the ultimate benefit of all our young people.”

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