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School sport pledge is wheeled out again

Prime Minister John Major has taken the opportunity of his leadership campaign to deliver his most explicit promises yet about a bright future for school sport.

In a keynote speech to the Constituency Chairmen Forum he said: "We have been working on plans that will, over time, revolutionise sport in schools, sport after school and excellence in sport. In particular, they will help all children, not just the best. There will be new support, new targets, new facilities for teachers in schools."

Mr Major's comments were taken as strong hints as to the contents of the White Paper on sport which is expected to be published next month. He was reinforcing previous speeches in which he and ministers have stressed the importance of putting sport back into the heart of school life.

The National Heritage office, which is responsible for sport, was unwilling to expand upon Mr Major's latest statement. But it is understood that "new support" is likely to be money for school sport from the National Lottery.

"New targets" could be a reference to league tables for school sport, feared David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, but a spokesman for National Heritage denied there were any plans for competitive tables for school sport.

Both the NAHT and the Central Council for Physical Recreation want to see strong links between schools and voluntary sports clubs to encourage high quality competitive sport, and the White Paper is expected to develop this theme.

Mr Hart, however, believes it will be strong on rhetoric and weak on action. He has written to National Heritage secretary Stephen Dorrell to ask for a meeting about the Government's intentions.

He hopes to persuade the Government that National Lottery money should be spent on art and music and not just sport in schools. Nigel Hook, head of technical services at the CCPR, said: "If the Government really wishes to make a dynamic impact in youth sport, it must look at the lack of time and facilities for sport in schools."

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