Friday, 26 August 2016

NO PLAY FOR TODAY - funding cuts hit sports in English state schools

Taken from Big Issue North, 22 - 28 August, please buy a copy of the magazine  when you see a seller 
Sport in schools is at “crisis level”, according to a North Yorkshire head teacher. 
In the week the government announced its long awaited anti-obesity strategy – and Britain continued to bring home Olympic medals from Rio –Tony Gavin, head of Laurence Jackson School in Guisborough, warned that some school sports are “virtually extinct” outside the private education sector as a result of funding cuts. 
Specialist teachers 
Under Gavin’s leadership Laurence Jackson School was a specialist sports school and the organising centre for the East Cleveland school sports partnership (SSP) – a funding scheme introduced by the Labour government in 2000 to increase sporting opportunities for schoolchildren, with a commitment that every child would receive a minimum of two hours a week of high quality competitive sport. 
In 2010 the Labour government claimed it had met the two-hour target for 90 per cent of children, up from 25 per cent in 2004. But on becoming prime minister of the new coalition government that year David Cameron claimed only 20 per cent of children were participating in inter-school sport and called Labour’s record “woeful”. 
School sports partnership annual funding of £160 million was slashed by 80 per cent, and ended in 2013. Funding was absorbed into general schools budgets, with a government spokesperson saying: “Having enjoyed some £2.4 billion of public funds since 2003 every school should have embedded good practice in order to maintain the current sports provision.” 
But Gavin said schools sports partnership funding was effective. “Pupils participated in over 20 different sports because the programme allowed for the bringing in of specialist sports teachers that local primary schools could also borrow,” he said. 
“Many schools marked out tracks and pupils used them. Young children became playground school leaders and every school got bags of kit. The school sports partnership was positive and helped begin to tackle obesity. Scrapping it was short sighted.” 
Gavin said sports such as cricket have almost disappeared in state schools.
“Schools can’t afford groundsmen,” he said. “Consequently, pitches are not safe enough to allow a 14-year old to bowl on at cricket. Unless you can, like us, establish a partnership with a cricket club that means no cricket. Rugby is similar. Sport in schools is at a crisis level.” 
Coaching standards 
Gerry Sutcliffe, Labour MP for Bradford South from 1994 to 2015 and sports minister from 2007 to 2010, said: “We upped participation levels, created over 130 specialist sports colleges and later increased the numbers of coaches. We moved sport away from being just football, cricket and rugby for boys and netball and hockey for girls. Our research showed we were making progress.” 

Sutcliffe said the current approach to school sports “is a disaster area”, adding: “Free schools and academies provide no guarantee about sports provision. In Bradford too many schools have no sports provision or a playground. Coaching standards have fallen. There aren’t any reliable figures on schools sport. It is time for change.” 

The government though has defended its school sports record. A spokesperson said: “Since 2013 we have provided over £450 million direct to primary schools to improve physical education and sport provision. 
“The national curriculum sets out the expectation that pupils should be physically active for sustained periods of time and teachers have the flexibility to organise and deliver a range activities. The sport premium was doubled in the last budget to £320 million annually. Schools remain
free to work in partnership to deliver sport for their pupils if they wish. The numbers of people playing sport weekly has risen to 15.8 million.” 

Tony Gavin and Gerry Sutcliffe will be guest speakers at a public meeting on ’What future for school sports?’ on 20 October at 7pm at Unite’s regional office, 55 Call Lane, Leeds LS1 7BW

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