Scottish Rugby launches new State School Strategy to increase youth participation
Scottish Rugby has today published its strategic approach to support rugby communities deliver a thriving and vibrant state school game over the next six years.
Whilst Scottish Rugby’s engagement with state schools has been ongoing for a number of years – including investment into the Schools of Rugby programme and developing formal partnership agreements with local authorities including Aberdeenshire Council – this is the first time Scottish Rugby has produced a statement of intent around increasing state school rugby participation.
Led by the Rugby Development department, the strategy aims to increase the volume of rugby activity for school pupils in Scotland, with greater diversity of players, whilst also improving the quality of game play. The strategy also aims to provide stronger links to clubs in both player and volunteer retention.
Looking at the current landscape, Scottish Rugby supports 154 state schools and 22 independent schools to participate in Conferences and Fixtures or Festivals. In addition, there are 82 clubs across the country who facilitate youth programmes (U13 upwards). It is Scottish Rugby’s aim that through the strategy, more state schools will participate in competition structures, and the number of clubs with youth programmes will grow.
The strategy encompasses six key areas which have a total of £540K brand-new budget allocated to support.
The first area of investment includes the recruitment of six School Rugby Officers whose roles will be aligned to working with schools to develop pathways and programmes for both curriculum-based and extra-curricular rugby, with scope to increase diversity of pupils involved in the game.
The recruitment process for three of the six roles is currently underway, with the following three roles to enter the market before the end of the year.
Investment will also be made to support schools with equipment provision and resources, along with development opportunities for teachers to build on coaching and officiating knowledge, skills and qualifications.
In addition to this, the strategy encompasses additional pathways for game play opportunities including expansion of formal schools’ competitions and conferences on a regional and national level, plus informal mid-week fixtures and the introduction of alternative rugby formats.
Schools of Rugby will also continue to be a focus for Scottish Rugby. This programme offers pupils the opportunity to engage in rugby activity during school time with the aim of not only developing young players, but also aiding them in their physical, social, emotional and academic development in their Secondary school.
There are currently 43 Schools of Rugby operating across the country, including 17 which are supported by CashBack for Communities. It is hoped over the duration of the strategy the number of Schools of Rugby will increase.
This well-established programme has been a catalyst for developing strong links between clubs and schools, and this will continue to be a driver for the programme moving forward.
Finally, Scottish Rugby Schools Week supported by Saltire Energy will also continue to run, and will be a cornerstone in the season calendar for development opportunities and increasing participation in the game, particularly at Secondary school level.
In the March 2022 iteration of the programme, more than 600 state primary and secondary schools engaged with rugby delivery. Moving forward, the programme will include more targeted support to engage Secondary schools and provide development opportunities for teachers and school staff.
Gav Scott, Director of Rugby Development said: “This strategy marks an exciting new chapter in Scottish Rugby’s work with the education sector. We recognise for many years now, independent education has been seen to be a leader in school rugby, and whilst they will continue to drive the game forward, it is our aim that with brand-new investment and directed support, Scottish Rugby can begin to bridge the gap between independent and state schools in rugby.
“Our strategy shows a clear statement of intent to enhance current offerings and develop new partnerships between schools, local authorities, clubs and other stakeholders, whilst also providing the necessary equipment, training and provision to enable state schools to deliver high quality programmes and rugby environments.
“The quality and variety of playing and training opportunities within state school settings has a significant influence on people’s lifelong engagement in rugby. We want to work collaboratively, and actively seek to engage with and include all members of our community to retain and grow the role of rugby throughout state schools, and support those within the education setting to see that rugby is a force for good which has inclusion, respect and wellbeing at its core.”
Work to engage state schools in rugby has been ongoing for a number of years, and one of the most recent areas of work has included a partnership agreement with Aberdeenshire Council to support and deliver increased rugby and physical activity for secondary school pupils across 17 state schools in the north of Scotland.
The programme is now providing enhanced opportunities for young people to focus on their health and wellbeing, and enjoy outdoor learning working in partnership with local communities.
Head of Education for Aberdeenshire Council Vincent Docherty said: “Scottish Rugby’s investment in our school communities offers a real boost for schools right across Aberdeenshire.
“With plans for dedicated rugby officers, offering more opportunities for our young people to play the sport, Scottish Rugby’s new strategy builds on our already strong partnership working.
“We are very pleased to be a part of delivering enhanced experiences for our young people, helping us develop all aspects of our curriculum for physical education.”