Primaries debate how to make sport funding last

29th March 2013 at 00:00
Don't hire coaches, schools urged, but train specialist PE teachers

The head of UK Sport has warned that #163;300 million of funding for primary school sport, announced by the Westminster government this month, will go to waste if heads use it to employ coaches rather than invest in training their staff.

Prime minister David Cameron said that the government would give primaries in England #163;150 million a year over the next two years in an effort to capitalise on the legacy of last summer's Olympic Games.

But Baroness Sue Campbell, head of UK Sport and chair of the Youth Sport Trust, said that although the level of investment was welcome, it was important not to waste the funding on sports coaches "who will disappear once the money goes".

Speaking to TES, the peer said that schools had to cluster together to make best use of the money in order to create a sustainable programme. "There is an issue around the quality of provision of PE in primary schools, so I hope they will think about coming together and bringing in peripatetic expertise that will work with a family of schools to build their knowledge about the subject," she said.

"What is less sustainable is heads buying in bits of work, through specialist coaches or similar - instead of training teachers - and then that expertise disappearing when they leave."

The worst-case scenario, she added, would be if the money "just filled a gap" for two years before a new programme was brought in with a change of government.

The funding announcement was expected weeks ago and it is understood that the delays have centred around a disagreement between the Department of Health, which will provide #163;60 million of the funding each year and wanted the money to be ring-fenced, and the Department for Education, which will hand over #163;80 million and wanted heads to decide how to spend the cash. The DoH won the argument.

The decision about the future of school sport funding has been pending since Westminster education secretary Michael Gove announced his intention in 2010 to scrap the #163;162 million-a-year school sport partnerships programme. Coming as it did less than two years before London 2012, Mr Gove's decision sparked outrage and the minister was forced into a partial U-turn, reinstating #163;65 million of the money, which runs out in July.

In an attempt to address concerns about the lack of expertise in PE and sport in English primaries, the announcement included plans to introduce an initial teacher-training pilot to provide primary trainees with a specialism in PE. The pilot will begin with 120 trainees, starting in September.

Lord Coe, chairman of London 2012 and the government's adviser on the Olympic legacy, said the proposed pilot was a significant step in the right direction.

"I am particularly pleased to see the proposals around initial teacher training and continuing professional development, because I know from my own experience what an impact teachers can have on the lives of young people," he said.

But the new pilot scheme will not be able to meet the shortfall in PE specialists in primary schools. Tony Draper, headteacher of Water Hall Primary in Milton Keynes, said this made it more important than ever for schools to train their own staff.

"The biggest concern is that schools pay for a football coach or similar, who takes their session and then goes when the money does," said Mr Draper. "It is critical that schools cluster together and bring in a primary PE specialist who can develop the teachers ... to provide proper PE lessons of their own."


#163;8,000 - lump sum to be given to each school with more than 17 pupils, with a top-up of #163;5 per pupil.

#163;9,250 - the sum received by a school with 250 pupils: equivalent to two days a week of a primary teacher or sport coach's time.

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