Thank you for taking the time to read this email which is to enquire about the strategic plan with regards to investment by Scottish Rugby into our state schools in this country.
When you look at our current national team you will see the likes of Rory Sutherland, Stuart Hogg, Finn Russell, Johnny Gray and Rob Harley, who have all came through the state school system.
I was a development officer for five years in North Ayrshire under Glen Tippett so I am aware as to how the partnership agreements are worded and what they consist of.
The number of posts that were in existence has sadly diminished and I would like to know why? Is this on instruction by Scottish Rugby? Are the Local Authorities not prepared to part fund the posts? If so I would find this hugely surprising as I always found council officials massively supportive of our game after seeing the impact it can have on local clubs and communities.
When I was in post, I worked in the new (at the time) schools structure with private schools in their own conference and state schools in a separate tiered competition.
]In my opinion the private schools will always produce quality players because:
- They will offer scholarships to the best players.
- Parents who are in a position to will pay for their kids to be in that environment.
State schools is where serious investment should be directed, increasing the numbers of pupils being given the opportunity to play our game and then make their way to their local club and grow its numbers also. The social impact is huge in these areas with kids being shown the disciplines and values of our game.
Having seen the direct impact our game has had on many ‘unruly’ kids is phenomenal: the changes of behaviour, the feeling of being wanted by a team and group of players is something that only some of these kids will ever experience.
For me, Scottish Rugby has only ever played at it and never really thrown the kitchen sink at it, look at other nations such as Ireland where their school game is so strong now. I’m not saying we should follow suit directly but we must be prepared to build our game from the schools up.
If we build the game from the state schools up we get more players to clubs, clubs thriving with membership, a social impact that will last a lifetime, and more players wanting to play our game week-on-week. If we have more players more, we have more quality to choose from.
Along with numerous others deeply involved in the game over many years, I would genuinely like to know what Scottish Rugby is currently doing or intends to do to improve and enhance its input to Schools rugby.
Mr Dodson, having played and coached the game in this country and elsewhere for over 30 years I have a deep understanding of the realities in all of this – so a direct response that details the plan and related criteria going forward would be greatly welcomed.
- Note: Gavin received replies to this letter from both Mark Dodson and incoming Director of Rugby Development Gav Scott, recognising the concerns raised and re-assuring him that this is an issue Scottish Rugby is keen to tackle.
- Scottish Rugby’s recent announcement on a funding package for the grassroots game stated that there will be a “focus on schools and youth rugby with an emphasis on state schools”.
- Gavin is looking forward to seeing how these encouraging noises translate into meaningful investment and effective initiatives.