The Youth Sport Co-ordinator Network
Following the production of the Strategy on Sport for Young People the members of the Strategy Group paid a visit to Scotland and England to look at Youth Sport structures in these countries. While in England they met Barbara Wilson who was School Sports Co-ordinator in Lostock High School in Manchester. On return it was decided that while most of the other potential structures could be evidenced in Northern Ireland there was a need to pilot school sports co-ordinator posts.
The Principals of Antrim High School and Fleming Fulton School agreed to do this and within a short time David Haugh and Roger Grant were appointed as the first two School Sports Co-ordinators in Northern Ireland. There are now 140 people in post throughout Northern Ireland, Donegal and Sligo. Each has been given support through the appointment of a Sports Development Officer in the local Education and Library Board, of VEC, with a financial package to cover both their honarium and programme costs.
The role of the School Sports Co-ordinator
- To organise and manage a quality after school sports programme.
- To foster links with outside bodies and partner organisations
- To develop school policy on after school sport and service a sub-committee of the Board of Governors
- To ensure curriculum benefits from after school sport programmes
- To promote, market and report on the Youth Sport scheme in their school.
- To contribute to the links with a minimum of 4 feeder primary schools
The NI Experience
Our experience of appointments in NI started 5 years ago, although the main developments have been over the last two years and would suggest the following:-
- The importance of drawing up a contract between the Education and Library board and the individual schools
- The need to hold interviews for co-ordinator posts with an independent assessor available where possible to establish the philosophy the interviewee is bringing to the post.
- Providing training for school sports co-ordinators through the 'Schools out Lets Play Sport' pack. This involves ensuring the release of the School Sports Co-ordinator by their school for training and should be built into the contract.
- The importance of establishing the school's willingness to charge young people for after school sport, as this has proved significant in sustaining the programmes.
- Ensuring that School Sports Co-ordinators are given time to do the job.
- Providing training and support for Boards of Governors in order that they will support the post in the long term.
Since the appointment of School Sports Co-ordinators started in Northern Ireland there has been a significant change of attitude to sport in schools where these posts have been established. The School Sports Co-ordinators have been encouraged by the enthusiasm of the primary schools with which they have been working giving them support with their after school provision. Many of the Education and Library Boards see Youth Sport as a success story and certainly sport has been given a much higher profile within the Boards. New coaches have been identified through a number of sources from Governing Bodies, clubs, local parents and they have been supported with training to develop their leadership and coaching skills. With the posts that were established in the early period sustainability has been evident but it is important that Sports Development officers within education keep working to ensure long term sustainability of these posts. The profile of Youth Sport has been high in Northern Ireland and certainly schools have been given an opportunity to promote their programmes in the local press.Vital to the development of Youth Sport has been the TOPs programmes running in parallel and linking to a similar group of primary schools. This has provided the 'cement' through which the quality of youth sport provision has been assured.
Recently new co-ordinators have been appointed to the various Youth Sport programmes either to replace co-ordinators who have resigned of moved to other schools, or in schools which have just joined Youth Sport. The above co-ordinators attended the Project Management and Induction course at Cookstown in November. The course was taken by Neil McGivern and David Lewers.