Bennett launches East Ayrshire Schools of Rugby

Scotland’s Mark Bennett launched two new Schools of Rugby for East Ayrshire in an event which cemented the strong partnership between East Ayrshire Council, Scottish Rugby and Kilmarnock and Cumnock rugby clubs. Image courtesy of East Ayrshire Council

The successful Schools of Rugby operating at Grange Academy in Kilmarnock and Cumnock Academy have now been rolled out to Loudoun and Auchinleck Academies.

Grange and Cumnock academies were the first ever Schools of Rugby in Scotland and have provided young people with the opportunity to participate in an enhanced curriculum timetable, which includes a rugby activity session every day in their first year at secondary school.

Mark Bennett said: “It was a very humbling experience to launch the new Schools of Rugby for East Ayrshire.

“I didn’t have the benefit of this set up when I was at school and was lucky if I played three games of rugby. For one of the games, I was playing for Auchinleck and my teacher Miss Sharp took me to the game in her own time, I am very appreciative of the support I received from my teachers and the rugby development team at the Council."

This investment by East Ayrshire Council is great for young local people but it is also great for Scottish rugby. It can only benefit the game as it continues to grow in the future.”

Young people are selected on their ability to perform in and out of the classroom with the programme structured specifically to develop their social, academic and sporting abilities. The School of Rugby focuses on player development and also lifestyle management.

Since its inception, the schools have raised their profile through participation and performance in community and club rugby, with more than half of Grange’s 132 players now turning out at club level. The school also works in partnership with Ayrshire College and the Council’s Sports Mentors who provide additional training and nutritional advice.

The School of Rugby at Cumnock has produced some excellent players and has high hopes of producing stars of the future, like Mark, through the programme.

This year 101 young people started S1 as School of Rugby pupils; Loudoun will have 29 pupils at S1 and Auchinleck will have 31.

Councillor Douglas Reid, Leader of the Council, said: “Mark followed the rugby pathway from school to Cumnock and Ayr rugby clubs before making the move to playing professional rugby at Glasgow Warriors.

“His performance in the recent World Cup was outstanding and he was one of just three players to be nominated for the World Breakthrough Player of the Year award. For all his success Mark is so down to earth and is still involved at the grassroots in Cumnock, helping with the mini teams when he can.”

I have absolutely no doubt that through the School of Rugby programme and having inspirational world class athletes like Mark encouraging our young people, future stars of the game will hail from East Ayrshire.”

Scottish Rugby’s Head of Youth and Schools, Colin Thomson, said: Scottish Rugby are delighted to be expanding our Schools of Rugby programme across East Ayrshire with the addition of Loudoun and Auchinleck academies to the programme.

“This is a great example of how clubs, schools, the Local Authority and the national governing body work together to increase the numbers playing and learning through sport.”