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Playing for a draw?

High-profile pound;30m sports initiative fails to produce 11-year-old winners

A HIGH-profile education scheme backed by football clubs and other sports teams has made no overall difference to English and maths results for 11-year-olds, according to research.

The report, commissioned by the Government, on the Playing for Success initiative also found that it led some more able pupils' progress to slow down, compared with their peers.

However, pupils with low attainment who attended did better than those with similar abilities who did not.

More than pound;30 million has been spent on the scheme, which has led to the creation of study support centres for 7 to 14-year-olds at more than 100 sports venues, including Manchester United, the All England Lawn Tennis Club at Wimbledon and Silverstone motor racing circuit.

The National Foundation for Educational Research analysed the test results of pupils attending 63 of the centres, mostly football clubs, for the 20-hour courses.

An earlier study found clear evidence of significant improvements on several measures, especially numeracy and ICT, during the pupils' time at the centres. On average, primary pupils improved their numeracy scores by 17 months and secondary pupils by 24 months.

For this study the researchers decided to see whether the scheme improved pupils' performance in their next national tests.

The 9,807 11-year-old pupils who had gone to the centres made slightly less progress in English and similar progress in maths to those who had not attended.

The more able pupils who participated did less well on average than their peers.

The researchers said: "It seems unlikely that attendance at Playing for Success would have a negative effect on pupils with average or slightly above average performance. Rather, this finding suggests that pupils in this group may have more complex needs which are more difficult to address within a 20-hour programme."

The researchers found the scheme had a more positive effect on teenagers who participated, although they only made up a minority of participants.

There was no difference between the 3,890 14-year-olds who participated and their peers in key stage 3 tests, while the 844 15- and 16-year-olds did better than their peers at maths GCSE and in overall GCSE results.

Researchers recommended the Government should continue to support the scheme but that centres may wish to reconsider which pupils they admitted.

A DfES spokesperson said: "Playing for Success has been a massive success for the 210,000 young people taking part since it was launched. More centres are set to open this year, including at the new Wembley stadium."

* www.dfes.gov.uk

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