Royal High School Go Continental

In parts of continental Europe particularly Germany and Scandinavia, the concept of schools hiring their own specialist sports development officers is an established practice.

Anna Signeul, Former Swedish Internationalist and until recently the Head Coach of the Scottish International women’s football team, recalls her experience of being brought up in her home town north of Gothenburg;

‘The biggest influence on my career was my football coach at school. Every three years the pupils at our school would vote on the three sports that we most wanted. Our school went for football, handball and ice hockey and then went out to hire the best coaches they could possibly get’.

These coaches, it should be highlighted, were in addition to the Physical Education teachers. PE staff often have a specialist sport and while many excel in a range of sports it is not feasible for them to operate at a highest level of several sports.

It is therefore very encouraging to see our own Royal High School take the first step in this direction. In September of this year the school advertised for a Rugby Development Officer, an opportunity made possible by a partnership between The Royal High and the Scottish Rugby Union and supported by the parent community.

The Royal High School pupils playing rugby

The recent success of The Royal High School Rugby curriculum includes entry to the BT School of Rugby Programme, boys’ victories in recent Scottish School Plate, Calum Veith Memorial, Edinburgh State School 7’s Tournaments and finalists in the girls’ Scottish Shield. While these achievements mark the school as an excellent candidate for development support, it is both this and the additional aspects of the role which make the position a huge asset to the school community.

The appointed officer, Steven Leckie, brings a wealth of experience of rugby development and coaching in addition to a background in ‘positive mindset’ mentoring. It made him the perfect candidate for a forward thinking role in which Steven’s responsibilities are 75% rugby development with a 25% focus on leading and mentoring those on positive intervention programmes.

Steven's Appointment, photo of him standing beside a pull up banner for Team GB

Rector of The Royal High School, Pauline Walker, provides additional insight into Steven’s appointment, ‘The appointment of a Rugby Development Officer in the school has made an outstanding contribution to the school curriculum. Through this post we have been able to integrate the RHS School of Rugby as well as enhance our well established core rugby programme and teams. Rugby makes a valuable contribution in the school to the lives of our young people with both improved fitness levels and increased positive mental health. We have found the young people in the rugby programme have really valued this investment in their sport.

The School of Rugby also includes an inclusion group which supports young people who are finding it difficult to work positively with the school. They have found Stevie Leckie to be a real anchor for them and his ability to ‘mentor on the move’ while completing their rugby training is enabling them to engage more positively with the wider curriculum and begin to see real success in school’.

‘The programmes in place compliment the Physical Education curriculum tremendously’

While the post is in its infancy it is clear from all involved the immediate positive impact of the relationships Stevie is building.

Group of children playing rugby with the ball in the air

Curricular Leader of Health and Well Being, Steven Raeburn, notes, 'I feel very fortunate to have Stevie join our Health and Wellbeing Team at The Royal High School as the Rugby Development Officer. I have been able to witness first-hand the positive impact that both the rugby and focussed mentoring classes have made to our students. We have focussed on having a genuine triangulation from the outset, where our teachers, students and parents are involved and informed of progress being made within the programmes. The programmes in place compliment the Physical Education curriculum tremendously and it is clear that the students involved are taking on board the vision and values of what we are striving for- aspiration, respect, creativity, courage, achievement, resilience and individuality. It is an exciting time for Physical Education and Sport at The Royal High School and I look forward to seeing what the future brings’.

Footnote: Rugby has a growing presence in our schools. 85% of City of Edinburgh Council High Schools and over 95% of our Primary Schools receive Rugby delivery. To our knowledge, this is the first Development Officer (DO) to be directly employed by an Edinburgh school. We look forward to this initiative being replicated in some of our other High Schools. Neighbouring schools sharing a DO, be it rugby or another popular sport might also be an option.

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