Schools sport fears at shake-up

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 into 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 saying the policy was 'ill-conceived – he this week ordered a rethink on plans.

Shortly after this, it was announced that 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 on the controversial plans.

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

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'We fully understand the challenging economic environment and the difficult decisions that needed to be made in order to make significant budget cuts,' he said.

'Nevertheless the decision to completely cut funding for school sport is deeply disappointing.'

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, which also offer training to teachers at primary and secondary schools, are all overseen by a team led by a Partnership Development Manager (PDM), and these managers met Mr Gove last week to discuss the cuts.

For the past eight years, the Lowestoft and Beccles SSP has been successful, winning numerous national and regional awards.

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

'Worryingly, not only are our local schools faced with the loss of their Schools' Sport Partnership but additionally, at the end of March, the county physical education advisory team is to be disbanded, as is the county's team of sports competition managers and it is highly likely that the under-pressure county schools swimming service is also set to end at this time.'

Mark Prentice, headteacher at Woods Loke Primary School, said 'All the great work that the Lowestoft and Beccles Partnership has done to raise the profile of sport in the community will be lost, and it is ridiculous thinking that something like this is in jeopardy when we are two years away from hosting the Olympics.

'These plans need a re-think as it will be the children and local schools losing out.'

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