13 Aug 2006
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Fears over future of schools sports cast doubts over Games legacy claims
|Posted: 5th October 2011
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Children at 40 per cent of England’s secondary and primary state schools could face a reduction in sports provision as a result of government cuts, Telegraph Sport can reveal.
A year after the coalition announced it was slashing £162 million of annual sport funding, the first survey of the impact reveals that despite an about-turn in which some funding was restored, four out of six schools are still unclear what sport provision they will be able to offer, with many predicting a reduction.
A survey by the Youth Sports Trust has revealed that just 55 per cent of ‘hub’ schools which previously coordinated school sport in their area have retained their network of support to local schools. The YST found that many of these are working with far fewer staff and resources than previously.
But a further 40 per cent told the YST that more than a month into the new school year they are still unclear about what level of staffing and funding they will provide.
The uncertainty means that pupils are almost certainly facing a reduction in school sport in the coming year, a position supported by interviews conducted by The Daily Telegraph with school sport providers across England. These revealed grave concerns about the impact of the funding cuts, and fears that children will inevitably lose opportunities to take part in sport.
The disclosure is a blow to claims by Education Secretary Michael Gove that competitive sport would “be at the centre of a truly rounded education that all schools offer”, and damages the credibility of the London 2012 Olympics legacy, which centred on helping young people into sport.
It comes as culture secretary Jeremy Hunt prepares to launch the flagship school sport initiative, the School Games, on Friday at the London 2012 Aquatics Centre.
The School Games are intended to revitalise competitive sport, but the YST research raises serious questions about the credibility of the policy and access to sport, particularly for primary age children.
The YST surveyed 450 ‘hub’ secondary schools. Of these, 384 responded, with 55 per cent saying that they had retained a school sports network in some form. Even those schools that have retained networks have fewer government-funded resources.
All but one of the 450 hub schools have retained a key member of staff, now called a School Games Organiser, to work with a local schools, but they are now funded just three days a week instead of full-time. Around half the SGOs have found additional funding to make their posts full-time, but many have found the network of links with other schools crumbling because of reduced funding.
School sport is complex and politically sensitive for the coalition, not least because it was the cause of the first major policy about-turn of David Cameron’s premiership.
Last October, Gove announced £162 million of ring-fenced annual funding would be cut. The reductions would have seen the national network of 450 School Sports Partnerships dismantled and left 3,500 providers uncertain about their futures. The system was widely considered a success, with the number of children playing at least two hours’ sport increasing from fewer than two million in 2004 to more than 6,500,000 in 2010.
Gove proposed leaving school sport funding entirely at the discretion of head teachers, but the cuts prompted a campaign driven by teachers, pupils and Olympians, with British gold medallists including Denise Lewis and Tessa Sanderson among those opposing the policy.
The campaign was successful and last December Gove announced a partial reverse backed by £87 million of funding over two years, with the aim that schools would then find the money from existing budgets.
Some £22 million was allocated to pay for SGOs to work on three-day contracts worth around £17,000, and £65 million to allow secondary schools to release a PE teacher one day a week to work with primary schools. This teacher-release funding is half that allowed under the previous system and is not ring-fenced. PE teachers on the ground claim that primary schools are already being impacted. Sue Campbell, the chairman of the YST said: “We are in a period of transition, but we are absolutely committed to working with the initiatives. We have to make sure that every child has a quality experience of school sport. We will need to complement the positive elements of the School Games to make sure we continue to reach children, particularly in primary.”
Campbell’s concerns are endorsed by interviews with sports teachers on the ground that reveal a wealth of anecdotal concerns. None agreed to be interviewed on the record because of concerns over future employment, but all reported a loss of provision. With primary teachers receiving only four hours of basic training in PE, there is concern they will not be able to attend courses to improve their skills.
One experienced teacher retained as an SGO in the South West said: “All the work we did developing sport in primaries is going to tail off. Last year I ran an interschool competition for primaries and nine out of 12 schools came. This year I had just three.
“Next week I am running an approved training course for primary teachers on teaching PE. It’s free, but where last year I had 30 teachers attending there are just six signed up. Schools can’t afford to show the same commitment to sport.”
Another teacher, sacked from a two-day-a-week post by one midlands school and facing redundancy from the other by Christmas, was more direct: “Seb Coe stood up and said the London 2012 would be all about the kids, but school sports been sold down the river just as the Olympics arrive.”
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Scuba Divers supported the Games in 2012, did you? Anonymous