Lottery funding changes could impact school clubs

30th July 2010 at 01:00
Reform could stem flow of cash for extra-curricular activities and sports

Hundreds of after-school clubs and sports sessions face an uncertain future amid a shake-up in National Lottery funding.

It could cut the flow of cash to local authority schools already hit by budget cuts - although independent schools' charitable status ensures they would not be affected.

But the UK Government's proposed changes to the Big Lottery Fund may only relate to England, it emerged this week, with the onus put on the Scottish Government to decide whether the same would apply north of the border.

Big, which aims to help people and communities most in need, would be stopped from funding projects linked to the public sector, as its proportion of Lottery money drops from 50 to 40 per cent. Instead, more cash would go to sport, heritage and the arts, resulting in overall cuts worth pound;15 million in Scotland.

Schools currently eligible for funding through Awards for All or 2014 Communities - the initiative trying to build a legacy after the Glasgow Commonwealth Games - would no longer be able to apply.

In 2009-10, more than half of the 448 awards in Scotland made through 2014 Communities went to schools. Every year, Big makes about 500 awards to Scottish schools for extra-curricular projects through Awards for All. The average Big award in Scotland in 2009-10 was just under pound;6,000.

In a debate at Westminster last week, Labour MP for Kilmarnock and Loudoun Cathy Jamieson asked where the new Lottery policy applied and whether discussions had been held with the Scottish Government.

John Penrose, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, said the new arrangements, now under consultation, were intended "purely for England" and that devolved administrations would decide whether to follow suit.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said it would be responding to the consultation.

She added: "Finance Secretary John Swinney has, however, written to the Secretary of State (Jeremy Hunt) to express his concerns about additional proposed changes that would put at risk a number of small grants programmes run by Big, including those to schools."

Ms Jamieson discovered that 32 projects in her constituency alone would no longer be eligible for cash. These included 19 involving schools, such as dance lessons in a special-needs school and the building of a wildlife area at a nursery.

She told Parliament: "On the face of it, an application from a school might look like something that the local authority should deal with, but it might in fact be a matter of a group of parents working with a school to provide activities after school. After-school clubs are an obvious example, but I have also seen eco-garden projects in schools in my constituency, which are linked to improving the local environment.

"Other projects have provided children and young people with sporting opportunities which they might not otherwise have had."

The changes to Lottery funding, due to come into force from September, would result in all of Big's money going to the voluntary and community sector.

Ms Jamieson said: "About 90 per cent of the funding already goes in that direction, so what is the point of cutting that 10 per cent - the very small grants to very local organisations that really benefit from them?"

One potential anomaly is that independent schools, as charitable organisations, would still be able to apply for money from Big.

henry.hepburn@tes.co.uk.

  • Original headline: Lottery funding changes could impact many after-school clubs

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