Nurseries for the stars

7th April 2000 at 01:00
The Government is laying the foundations for more children to take sport seriously, writes Jon Slater

THREE hundred primary and 50 secondary schools will get new facilities as part of a government strategy to produce the next generation of Alan Shearers, Sally Gunnells and Tim Henmans.

It includes the appointment of 600 new sports co-ordinators, expanded after-school provision and school visits by Britain's leading sports stars. But there are no new rules on how much lesson time should be devoted to physical education.

Ministers will put pressure on sport governing bodies seeking lottery cash to commit their stars to visiting schools regularly. They also hope to persuade sports, such as cricket and rugby, to follow football's lead and donate between 5-10 per cent of television income to the grassroots.

In what will be seen as an attempt to halt criticism of the Government's record on school playing fields, a new advisory panel will be established. It will include members of the National Playing Fields Association and the Central Council for Physical Recreation - two of the Government's most vocal critics.

The plan is a joint initiative by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the

Department for Education and Employment. They hope to avoid the problems of the last government's sports strategy, which was undermined by the DFEE's lack of enthusiasm.

Descibing schools as "nurseries" for future sports stars, Chris Smith, Culture Secretary, said: "The success of this strategy will be easy to measure. In five years' time I want to see more people playing more sport."

Primary schools will benefit from a pound;150 million fund to provide new multi-purpose sports and arts facilities over the next two years. Half of this money will come from the Government and the rest from the lottery. Schools in deprived areas will be invited to apply for grants. The money was negotiated as part of the Budget settlement, but is extra to the pound;1 billion announced for education.

The number of specialist sports schools will double to 110 by 2003. The new co-ordinators will each be responsible for a group of schools, ensuring that the children have the chance to play competitive team sports and increase the number of after-school clubs.

School sports organisations said ministers should turn their aspiration for two hours a week of physical education into a commitment. Nigel Hook of the CCPR said: "Parents want their kids to do a minimum of two hours of exercise a week - not just 10 minutes of hopscotch."

See Sportscore on


pound;150m for new facilities in primary schools

over pound;5m for 50 new specialist sport schools

a share of pound;240m for after-school clubs

5-10 per cent of new television deals

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