Carrick Academy has for long been seen as a template for what can be achieved in state school rugby through Murrayfield’s Cashback Schools of Rugby scheme. Now the comparatively small South Ayrshire school intends to build on its already impressive achievements with an expansion of its rugby development programme that could make a positive difference to its results.

Under the direction of the school’s deputy headmaster, Gordon Brown, and with the backing of the Schools of Rugby scheme, Carrick Academy has flourished to the extent that it now fields teams at every age level for boys in addition to championing girls’ rugby. The latest development at Carrick should make the school’s players more "rugby ready".

“We’ve expanded the programme at Carrick so that we now have two senior strength and conditioning classes in the timetable, all the pupils receiving five periods a week,” said Brown.

Indicative of Carrick’s progress is the fact that team members are now attracting the attention of regional selectors. “We have two boys in the Glasgow under-18 squad.” explained Brown, who cites further development of girls rugby and, through the club, the fielding of P6 and P7 sides on Saturday mornings as evidence of progress in the school. We’ve also renovated our rugby building in the school grounds,” he adds.

Having rugby development as part of the curriculum might seem a hefty chunk out of the school day but the data coming back from schools participating in the programme suggests that the payback is considerable with academic attainment, attendance and discipline all showing improvement.

Headteachers like the idea that sport improves academic attainment, quite apart from the benefits to health, and Scottish Rugby use this message when it comes to selling the idea of Schools of Rugby.

Scottish Rugby has expanded the number of Schools of Rugby this season bringing in the likes of Marr College and Lenzie Academy in the west and Harris Academy in the east to the programme. Schools which signed up this season will participate in the what is effectively a new league structure for schools, although Scottish Rugby prefers to use the appellation "conferences".

Carrick, Lenzie and Marr will compete in the ‘Black Conference’ along with Jordanhill School, Lomond School, Morrison’s Academy, Queen Victoria School, St Columba’s and Wellington School. Overall standings will depend not only the result of the under-18 match but also on the under-16, S3, S2 and S1 outcomes, although the weighting will be towards the first XV game.

In all there are six tiers of conference groupings, the first of these bringing together six schools that have become almost specialist rugby institutions, George Watson’s College, Merchiston, Strathallan, Stewart’s-Melville College, Edinburgh Academy and Dollar Academy.

The west independent schools are grouped in the third tier White Conference which comprises Glasgow High School, Glasgow Academy, Hutchesons’ Grammar, St Aloysius College and Kelvinside Academy alongside one Edinburgh school, George Heriot’s with matches to be played over the next three months.