Sport is now firmly embedded as part of the culture and ethos of Kirkwall Grammar School – and it’s all thanks to a commitment to continuous improvement.
The Orkney school was awarded Gold status in sportscotland’s National Lottery-funded School Sport Award programme in January 2020, completing its journey through Bronze and Silver to the top of the podium.
In her role as Active Schools coordinator, Carolynn Leslie works hard to provide more and better opportunities for pupils to participate and progress in sport.
Using the School Sport Award structure to continually improve, she worked closely with the PE department at Kirkwall Grammar – led by Magnus Garson PT – on the Gold Award application.
Kirkwall native Carolynn, 27, said: “The PE Department decided at the beginning of the academic year to aim for a Gold Award. Together, we started the application early and news soon spread around the school.
"We were overwhelmed with the support that we received from management, teachers and school staff as well as the enthusiasm of the pupils themselves.
“The award became more than a collaboration between PE and Active Schools – it was a whole school effort.
“Teachers offered to run additional extracurricular clubs, take school trips, organise school sport competitions and more. This increased opportunities for pupils to get involved in sport and physical activity.”
In becoming the fourth school in Orkney to achieve the Gold Award, Kirkwall Grammar reaffirmed the commitment to sport that has been established as a priority by the Department of Education at Orkney Islands Council.
Carolynn, who also worked at schools in Moray before returning home, added: “I’m always amazed at the number of pupils who want to take part in sport and physical activity, at school and in the community.
"It’s overwhelming when you think about how much sport goes on and the positive impact it can have on people's lives.
“For me, at Kirkwall Grammar School, I’ve had the privilege of working with some amazing sportscotland Young Ambassadors, Young Leaders and secondary volunteers.
"I love seeing their attitudes to sport changing and becoming confident, independent leaders.
“I think it’s so important that the next generation of coaches have a positive outlook on sport and physical activity. Not only focusing on ‘talented athletes’, but also catering for people who want to be involved, keep fit and most of all, enjoy what they’re taking part in.
“There’s endless opportunities for pupils and adults to get involved in a huge variety of clubs and we have some amazing facilities too.”
James Wylie, executive director for education at Orkney Islands Council, added: “The School Sport Award has helped emphasise the importance of including the thoughts and views of young people when planning PE, sport and physical activity within Orkney’s schools.
“Our Active Schools coordinators working closely with school staff on the award has enabled schools to reflect on their current practices and, where required, continually improve them.
“Traditionally, Kirkwall Grammar School has valued the benefits of sport and physical activity and as a result of working through the School Sports Award structure, in collaboration with their Active Schools coordinator, pupils and staff are clear this position has been strengthened.
“Activity contributes to the physical and mental health of our communities. It brings our communities together in activities such as the Ba, the Stromness Yule Log pull and the Parish Cup, which also ensures the continuation of our culture and heritage.
“Sport has always been, and continues to be, a significant part of life on Orkney providing development opportunities for volunteers, coaches and athletes as well as providing opportunities for people to relax and have fun.”
Find out more
Check out sporting opportunities in Orkney at the Orkney Islands Council website
Get more information about the School Sport Award at the sportscotland website
Discover more about Active Schools at the sportscotland website
Sport For Life: summary of progress is sportscotland's annual review for 2019-20.