Minister promises pound;120m will be ploughed into sports programmes in the next three years. Jon Slater reports
ONE in four schools will benefit from a new army of sports coaches, Chris Smith, the Culture, Media and Sport Secretary announced this week.
Ministers hope that a massive expansion in the number of coaches, who are known as school sports co-ordinators, will spark a revival of inter-school leagues in sports such as football, netball, cricket and athletics.
Co-ordinators will work with clusters of secondary schools and their feeder primaries, organising specialist coaching, competitive games and after-school clubs.
"Sporting opportunities for young people, in school and after school, have been in serious decline for the past 15 years. Today I am able to take the first steps to repair that damage and help put English sport back on its feet," Mr Smith said.
But the Government's reliance on after-school activities to promote sport was undermined by its own survey showing that only one in three pupils takes part in sport outside lessons. While 42 per cent of boys participate after school or at weekends, only 28 per cent of girls do so.
"Sports co-ordinators are important but PE teachers must be given time on the curriculum for all eight million schoolchildren," said Nigel Hook, general secretary of the Central Council for Physical Recreation, an umbella body which represents sports governing bodies.
Lottery funds have provided pound;60 million which has already been earmarked to pay for 600 co-ordinators over the next three years. Now the Government has promised to match that with taxpayers' money with the aim of providing 1,000 co-ordinators by 2004.
Teachers' leaders and sports governing bodies welcomed the investment. But John Bangs, assistant secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said that serving teachers should be appointed as sports co-ordinators. "The last thing we need is another level of bureaucracy," he said.
Mr Smith told the House of Commons that government aid for sport will double in three years - to more than pound;100m - with schools the "top priority" for cash.
The extra money is in addition to the pound;60m-a-year fund for grass-roots football which was also announced this week. A new Football Foundation will receive money from the Premier League television deal, the Government and the Football Association to boost facilities in schools and local clubs.
Mr Smith also announced new "creative partnerships" to give children in deprived areas the chance to work "with artists, cultural organisations and the creative industries". Twelve areas will be set up in April 2002, by the Arts Council in partnership with local museums and galleries.
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