School sport funding in jeopardy

THOUSANDS of young people in Waveney could lose out under plans for a shake-up of school sports funding, it was claimed this week.

The government has proposed cutting �162m in protected School Sport Partnership (SSP) funding next year, and education secretary Michael Gove has pledged instead to give cash directly to schools to encourage more competitive sport.

This could put Suffolk’s eight partnerships at risk – including the award-winning Lowestoft and Beccles SSP which has developed numerous opportunities for young people to participate in sport, delivering its programme to 47 schools in Waveney.

After a growing backlash – which included petitions with over a million signatures and 70 top British athletes writing to the prime minister David Cameron – he this week ordered a rethink on plans.

Shortly after this, it was announced Mr Cameron had asked the education secretary to look again at the money available. But now the hope is that there will a complete rethink.

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Local SSP manager John Hughes said that, if implemented, the plans would be a “severe blow for thousands of young people” in Waveney.

“We fully understand the challenging economic environment and the difficult decisions that needed to be made in order to make significant budget cuts. Nevertheless the decision to completely cut funding for school sport is deeply disappointing.”

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Every school in the country is part of an SSP which organises competitions and training sessions for gifted and talented pupils, those lacking self-esteem, disabled children, or those just looking to try out something new.

The partnerships are overseen by a team led by a partnership development manager, and these managers met Mr Gove last week to discuss the cuts.

“The School Sport Partnership has become the heartbeat of school sport locally,” Mr Hughes said.

David Baker, headteacher at Beccles Middle School, said: “Beccles Middle has always provided very good extra curricular sports but what the sports partnership has done is it’s actually enabled us to take that even further.

“It’s enabled us to perhaps look at providing different sports and it’s taken some of the pressure off the staff. When it goes obviously we will continue providing as much as we can in terms of extra curricular, but that will put the emphasis back on to the staff. The other thing we will lose out on as well is the tournaments that are organised by the staff from the SSP. It’s the tournaments that are key.”

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