Government eases cut to school sports funding

LONDON, (Reuters) – The government staged a partial  retreat on the scrapping of 162 million pounds of annual school  sports funding yesterday after a wave of protests from teachers,  pupils and Olympic athletes like diver Tom Daley and heptathlete  Denise Lewis.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said schools would instead  be given 65 million pounds to cover two years of additional  sports teaching after existing funding ends in the summer.

Gove sparked outrage in October when he said he was cutting  funding for 450 School Sports Partnerships (SSP), which organise  PE, sports clubs and competitions at schools where there are no  specialist sports staff.

Gove believed the 2.4 billion pounds spent on the scheme  over the past seven years had brought some benefits but said it  was overly bureaucratic and that too few children were taking  part in competitive sport.

Prime Minister David Cameron had called the scheme a  “complete failure” but earlier this month adopted a more  conciliatory tone after public criticism of the move.

More than 70 British Olympic athletes wrote to Cameron last  month warning that the “ill-conceived” ending of funding for the  sports partnerships would risk the future of children’s health.

They said the move would destroy any hope of delivering the  promised legacy of wider participation in sport promised in  London’s successful bid for the 2012 Olympics.

Earlier this month, around 500 pupils delivered to Cameron’s  Downing St office a petition with half a million signatures  appealing for the scheme to be saved.

Funding for the sports partnerships will continue to the end  of the school summer term next year but will be reduced to 118  million pounds, Gove’s education department said.

The replacement funding of 65 million pounds, spread over  two academic years to 2013, will allow schools to pay for one PE  teacher to spend a day a week out of the classroom, allowing  them to organise more competitive sports.

Labour education spokesman Andy Burnham said the move was an  embarrassing climbdown by the coalition government.

“They spent weeks trying to justify a bad decision with  dodgy statistics and they have finally given in today,” Burnham  told BBC television.

“It’s a victory for thousands of young people, teachers and  athletes… But I’m still worried that fewer children will be  playing sport in the run up to 2012,” he added.

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