School sport cuts anger

SPORTS leaders in Royston have condemned proposed cuts to the school sports budget as “devastating” and “unbelievably short sighted.”

Terry Graves and Ken Charles spoke out this week against the cuts, which will mean �162m worth of funding is withdrawn from physical education in schools, and the significant School Sport Partnerships (SSPs) are scrapped.

Mr Graves, a former footballer for Reading and Royston Town, has written a 20-point list of reasons why SSPs should not be cut, and is planning on presenting the ideas to parliament.

He said: “The cessation of SSPs, ours of which is North East Herts, is devastating and shocking news and incredibly ill-informed and unbelievably short-sighted.

“Working together, physical education departments and SSPs have gone about creating a sporting revolution over the past 10 years.

“This has successfully enhanced attitudes at the very seed level of grassroots sport to provide the area with a system that provides every child with the opportunity to find and value physical activity, and this should not be underestimated.”

Mr Graves’ has claimed that his feelings towards the cuts run high amongst PE teachers and SSP leaders, and expressed his doubt as to whether sport in schools would be able to recover if the cuts go ahead.

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“I am concerned that a whole infrastructure is being swept away in an arbitrary, ill-informed manner,” he said.

“Schools will not be able to fund a replacement that comes any where near to making good the loss.

“PE departments simply do not have the capacity to provide the range of additional activities, workshops, competitions, new opportunities for students and expertise provided by SSP.”

With the Olympic Games scheduled for London 2012, Mr Graves admitted the timing of the cuts could not be worse, especially when, as he claims, other nations have looked to Britain for inspiration.

“We do not have the luxury of time for a new system to bed in before the Olympics, and that is why I am amazed by the decision to pull the funding on this area of work at a time when we are preparing for them,” he said.

“Countries such as Canada and Australia are seeking advice on how to set up similar models recognising the success of SSPs in this country.”

Mr Graves was supported by Ken Charles, who has worked in over 4,000 schools throughout the country and has witnessed the impact SSPs first hand.

“If they go ahead I think a generation of children will lose a great deal,” he said.

“One of the joys and strengths of the programme is that children across the ability spectrum have the option to take part in a range of different sports, and this has been quite exciting.

“The additional bonus on the back of the SSPs is that we have been training young people to take on leadership roles and, many students have consequently stepped into sport.”

Mr Charles, a former president of the England basketball association, added that basic levels of PE teaching, and the time children spend partaking in PE in school, is at risk.

“Most of our youngsters have three hours PE a week which is very good for the national average, but this is at risk. Pupils at primary, first and secondary schools will suffer greatly.”

Mr Charles has spoken to North Herts East MP Oliver Heald about the cuts, and has been writing letters and collecting petitions since they came to light.

A group of 75 high-profile British athletes including Denise Lewis and Tessa Sanderson signed a petition which was delivered to Downing Street last month, in order to prevent the scrapping of the 450 national SSPs.