This article by Alison Payne appeared in the Edinburgh Evening News on 25 January 2017.
As a parent of primary school-aged pupils, I have seen first-hand the excellent work being carried out by Active School coordinators in Edinburgh.
However, providing the activities on offer and working in conjunction with third party coaches and clubs to give our children great opportunities comes with a cost that is prohibitive to many disadvantaged families.
This is why Reform Scotland has called on the Scottish Government to work with SportScotland to ensure that children in receipt of free school meals can access Active Schools activities for free.
While the situation in Edinburgh may mean that there are different levels of costs depending on the specific school, by focusing on the school and not the pupil many disadvantaged children can miss out. For example, even though James Gillespie Primary School has a relatively low level of children in receipt of free school meals (outside of P1-3) there are still disadvantaged children at this school – to focus purely on schools in more disadvantaged areas means that those children lose out.
Similarly, even with a nominal fee of £1-2 per week, this can be prohibitive to a struggling family with a couple of children wanting to participate in a couple of activities. While the opportunity gap in terms of access to extracurricular activities can never be closed entirely, this small step could go some way towards closing the attainment gap.