As an Active Schools coordinator in the city of Glasgow, Claire Clark’s remit covers a cluster of schools with a combined total of about 2,400 pupils.
A key part of Claire’s role is to identify inactive pupils and develop targeted programmes to enable them to engage in an active and healthier lifestyle.
She takes pride in every pupil who benefits from these programmes, but the experience of one young person has crystallised what she and the wider Active Schools workforce across Scotland are aiming to achieve.
“I am particularly proud of a care-experienced pupil at St Paul’s High School who started her leadership journey in S3 as a sports leader,” says Claire, who began her Active Schools career in 2004 and has been based in the St Paul’s cluster since 2015.
“She worked with myself and the St Paul’s PE department to develop her leadership skills further by volunteering at extra-curricular sessions within the school, volunteering at primary events and completing additional leadership qualifications in sport.
“Whitacres Community Sport Hub have also helped her to gain valuable experience of volunteering within the local community at weekly sessions and holiday programmes. She has applied to study Sports Coaching at college and successfully passed the first round of interviews to become a Modern Apprentice within PEPASS.
“I am extremely proud of her. In difficult circumstances she has achieved great success which shows that leadership and sport really can change lives.”
The St Paul’s cluster is based in a socially deprived* area of Glasgow and includes feeder primary schools St Angela’s, St Bernard’s, St Marnock’s and St Vincent’s.
There are high levels of inactivity and obesity in these communities and Claire has focused on targeted programmes to address this, one example of which was a partnership she created with Glasgow Sport that stimulated gym use in S3/S4 girls, some of whom now have memberships at a local gym subsidised by Active Schools.
“I have been extremely fortunate to work in a cluster that has always embraced the importance of physical activity in a young learner’s development,” says Claire. “By implementing key programmes and initiatives, we have enabled schools, pupils, parents and carers to recognise the impact that sport and physical activity can have on raising attainment and achievement.
“Family sports evenings have been particularly successful in my cluster, with families invited to their local primary schools to take part in sport together in sessions delivered by their local community sports hub.
“This has had a direct impact on the number of pupils at both the extracurricular clubs and community sessions, which have dramatically increased as well as educating the parents and carers on the importance of physical activity.
“One of the highlights of this programme was a parent who attended one of the boxing sessions with his child and is now one of the lead coaches within Whitacres Community Sports Hub, delivering sessions on a weekly basis within the local community.”
There were 7.3 million visits to Active Schools sessions across Scotland in 2017-18, an increase of more than 6% on 2016-17, with almost 23,000 volunteers delivering activities. Claire has worked with Active Schools since it was launched in 2004 and is a strong advocate of the programme having seen it change so many lives in Scottish schools and communities.
“Sport and physical activity can offer a breadth of opportunities either recreationally or professionally and can positively impact on physical and mental wellbeing whether you are a participant, coach or volunteer,” she says.
“Working in Active Schools is such a rewarding job where you really do see the positive effect that sport and physical activity can have on a person’s life.”