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pound;30m to boost school sport

Schools will be able to apply to a pound;30 million fund to improve their sporting facilities, provide floodlights and drain soggy football and hockey pitches so they can be used all year round.

Ed Balls, speaking yesterday at the Specialist Sports Colleges conference in Telford, said he wanted councils to end the "no ball games" culture and help give young people sporting opportunities outside school hours. The Schools Secretary said that during consultation on the Children's Plan, young people said they had few options to play sports or exercise in the evenings.

"We are putting forward pound;30m over three years to help the most needy specialist sports colleges to install facilities that can be used by the local community as well as the pupils all year and into the evening," said Mr Balls.

Another way to get children interested in sport, he believes, is to consult pupils on the best designs for PE kits. He said he was happy for options such as dance and yoga to be offered in the subject, but supported competitive sports that enable pupils to learn about wanting to win - and learning to lose.

"Surveys show that for early teenage girls, having to wear particular PE kits can be really off-putting," he said. "The idea that you have got to wear a short gym skirt is for many young people a recipe to forget your kit."

Mr Balls also announced that another 89 schools were being awarded specialist status, 10 in sport.

Figures from the Youth Sport Trust this week showed that specialist sports colleges improved their GCSE results at a faster rate than other specialist schools last year. The proportion of pupils at the 430 sports colleges achieving five good GCSEs including English and maths stood at 42 per cent - up from 40.1 per cent in 2006.

While the results improved more quickly, the sports colleges still have worse pass rates overall. On average, all specialist schools raised results by 1.5 per cent to 48.8 per cent. The national average rose to 46.7 per cent of pupils achieving the five good GCSE benchmark last year.

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