A SCHEME to take rugby into mainstream schools in Glasgow has helped tackle more than just fitness ...

The Cashback Schools of Rugby scheme, which encourages pupils to take on rugby's values, has seen discipline, attendance and motivation soar.

Colin Thomson, Scottish Rugby’s head of schools and youth, helps run the scheme – which has encouraged pupils at 15 state secondary schools to take up the sport – and is also targeted at would-be rugby stars from poorer backgrounds, who may have been excluded from school or were at risk of exclusion.

In addition, pupils at risk of becoming involved in antisocial behaviour are also welcome.

Andrew McSorley, the headteacher of St Thomas Aquinas Secondary School, in Jordanhill, described the scheme as “hugely motivational”.

He said: “The youngsters have really taken to it in big numbers and, significantly, a large proportion of that has been girls.

“We’re seeing social benefits, too. Nearly three quarters of our kids come from the poorest parts of Scotland and rugby is not something they would naturally gravitate towards, but we’ve built it into the curriculum and it has gone down really well.

“That might take them out of the classroom for a period or so, but I still see it as enhancing their learning.

“We’re seeing first-hand how sport can be a real positive and motivational force for good and it has been a great initiative and really beneficial to our pupils, especially from some of the harder-to-reach kids.”

Another school that has taken part in the scheme is St Andrew’s Secondary in Carntyne.

Gerry Lyons, the school’s executive headteacher, said: “This has been a very positive experience for our young people and we have witnessed an increased sense of motivation and engagement from everyone involved.

“The benefits of teamwork have been reflected in other aspects of the curriculum with an obvious impact on health, fitness and attitudes that sport brings to our whole school community.

“The bottom line is that the young people are really enjoying this new sport and it’s always good to extend our horizons and I’m delighted the school has been given the opportunity to play rugby.”

Colin Thomson, who runs the scheme, said: “The aim is to provide opportunities and build capacity and confidence in disadvantaged young people while developing physical fitness, cognitive skills, physical competencies and personal qualities.

Under the £1.3 million CashBack Schools of Rugby scheme, pupils are taught to take on rugby’s values and develop personal fitness and social skills.

The scheme is part of a wider drive by Scottish Rugby to get more pupils playing the sport.

Warriors player Rory Hughes said rugby encouraged qualities like respecting authority, treating opponents fairly and showing good manners.

He said: "These are all skills that you end up taking into the rest of your life as well.

"I knew if I wanted to have a future in rugby I would have to change how I acted on and off the field. "And that’s what I did.

"I ended up being contracted for the Scotland Sevens team as an elite development player and two years ago I won my first cap for the full Scotland team.

"It was a proud moment as the first person from Castlemilk to do that. It showed you don’t have to come from one of the posh parts of the country or have a rugby background in your family to succeed in the game."

Mr Thomson said the scheme had led to a "burgeoning level of interest in rugby among both boys and girls." Mr Thomson added.

“We passionately believe that rugby is a sport for all regardless of background, age, experience or gender, and are confident that these initiatives are helping to deliver that.”

Mr Thomson said he planned to expand the scheme to as many schools as possible.

The initiative was backed by Maureen McKenna, executive director of education for Glasgow, where a number of schools have taken part.

She said: “The positives we are seeing from the introduction of the rugby scheme into our schools has been wholly encouraging.

“This serves as further evidence that playing regular sport not only helps pupils maintain a healthy and active lifestyle, but also develops leadership and teamwork skills.

“The feedback from headteachers is very encouraging with the potential of an upturn in academic achievement and attainment as a result of the introduction of rugby.”

She said they were also delighted that girls as well as boys had taken up the game.