Harsh future for school sports in St Albans

THOUSANDS of local children will suffer because of a government decision to withdraw support from school sports partnerships as part of a programme of spending cuts.

Nearly 24,000 children in the district are represented by the Nicholas Breakspear and Roundwood Partnerships which together are known as the St Albans and Harpenden school sports partnership.

Sports partnerships were set up as part of a scheme by the previous government to focus on physical education in schools by such means as forging links between schools and sports clubs, increasing sporting participation, promoting competition and delivering on the national PE School Sport for Young People strategy.

But following the Coalition’s comprehensive spending review, the Department for Education announced that it was stopping all direct funding for PE and school sport and the last payment to support school sport partnerships would be made in February.

Dan Klinger, development manager based at Roundwood Park School, said: “This cut to school sport will have a major impact on the opportunities available to young people. The volume of work delivered over the past four years has provided a massive support to existing school provision and the key to our work has been the impact that sport can have in its wider context.”

Since the St Albans and Harpenden partnership was established, 10,787 children have been involved in inter-school competition and a further thousand 10 and 11 year olds are now organising lunchtime activities for their peers.

Three thousand secondary age pupils are coaching younger children – a link designed to promote sport for generations to come.

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Young people have also received the opportunity to participate in a greater range of activities, received specialised coaching and accessed more specific opportunities to develop their talents.

Lisa Barton, head of St Bernadette’s in London Colney, said that her concerns as a small primary school was that without the partnership, the breadth of sport currently available could not be offered because of the limited knowledge and skills of teachers.

She went on: “We would miss out on funding opportunities which have been provided by the partnership and therefore, the collaboration and opportunities for inter-school sports would seriously diminish.”

She added: “The work of the sports partnership has done wonderful things to raise and elevate the status of physical education and sports in general and all of this good work would be lost.”

Tanya Angus, development manager at Nicholas Breakspear School, said she was determined to do everything in her power to ensure some kind of infrastructure remained in place post August 2011 when funding would finally finish.

She pointed out that a national petition had been developed and schools had been sent posters and letters for parents and headteachers – and it was not impossible that the petition could attract over one million signatures nationwide.

Tanya also urged people to support the partnerships by joining the campaign on Facebook.