Only half-time in sports programme

6th February 2004 at 00:00
I am writing in response to your front-page article regarding the apparent failure of the New Opportunities Fund for PE and sport (TES, January 30).

My school is one of three in Hammersmith and Fulham, London, that now has a new, fully-operational sports pitch as a result of the programme. In addition to these school projects there are also two new synthetic pitches installed in local parks.

Prior to receiving the NOF funding, my school had a large, Tarmac playground that was uninspiring and unsuitable for many sports. The new pitch has made an enormous difference not only to the quality of PE lessons experienced by our pupils but also to their interest in sport and physical activity.

In your article you state that only pound;8.5 million of the pound;750m allocation has been spent and suggest that this is due to "red-tape" and "in-fighting between Sport England and the lottery-backed New Opportunities Fund". However, I believe that you have overlooked two key issues that affect how quickly capital sports projects can be completed.

First, it takes time to develop capital projects as a range of professional services are involved. Second, in the case of the NOF programme it is particularly important to develop partnerships with other schools and potential users from the local community which again is a time-consuming process.

In our case, the local authority developed a good working relationship with the NOF case manager who we found extremely helpful in guiding us through the application process and ensuring that funding approval was received in time for us to start work in the summer holidays.

I believe that our experience in Hammersmith and Fulham demonstrates that with commitment from the school and support from the LEA it is possible to secure NOF funding within a reasonable timescale.

Helen Rai Headteacher Bentworth primary school Bentworth Road Westway, London W12

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