There's oodles of cash out there for sport if you know where to look. Annie Lovett reports on how to play the bidding game and win.
Fixing the Activemark gold plaque to the wall was a bitter-sweet moment for PE co-ordinator Clare Blackmore. Proud though she was of gaining Sport England's highest accolade for her superb PE teaching, she was also rather depressed as someone had left the price tag on: at pound;112 the plaque cost more than the school's entire PE budget for a year.
Her tiny rural school, St Lawrence's primary in Somerset. has fewer than 90 pupils and can afford just pound;100 a year for PE, orpound;1.25 for each pupil. The school, in Westbury-sub-Mendip near Wells, is not alone in struggling to make PE ends meet.
But hasn't the Government pledged more than pound;1 billion to PE and sport? And don't we have an obesity epidemic?
The answer to both questions is yes. Yet many schools still can't find the money they need - even though it is there for the taking And, even if schools can penetrate the jargon and satisfy the often unreasonable success criteria involved in bidding for cash, they often don't have the time or the expertise to do it properly.
As Mark Holmes, school sport co-ordinator of the Camborne, Poole and Redruth success zone in Cornwall, says: "Somehow we have to find the time to work through over-wordy application forms, and ensure our bid targets the correct under-represented community groups, and that we get enough of the key phrases in the bid to ensure success."
The Government has said that 75 per cent of pupils should receive at least two hours of high-quality PE a week by 2006. Even this minimum standard - and it is nowhere near enough - is a struggle for many schools.
At a time when everyone from government ministers to parents and teachers recognises the urgent need for young people to get active and stay active, this is a lamentable state of affairs.
There is money out there, but how can teachers get hold of it when the process is so complex with its bids, criteria, matched funding, capital and revenue costs, eligibility and deadlines?
Clare Blackmore recommends finding a patron and using sheer chutzpah.
"Brian Tinnion, new manager of Bristol City, is our football patron and supports the school's football development. Robin Smith, the ex-England cricketer, is our cricket patron and we work closely with Somerset County Cricket Club," she says. "I'm not shy about asking for support. I manage to get a lot of equipment through goodwill and badgering."
When it comes to form-filling, though, it also helps to have a vision that embraces the whole school and wider community.
Mark Forster, a community development and revenue procurement officer based at Failsworth school, a sports college in Oldham, Lancashire, says schools should think of helping funding bodies' favourite groups in the wider community through the delivery of curricular, extra-curricular and twilight sessions.
"Start by thinking about which facilities need upgrading. Then assess your links with the community. Do you have any joint needs or objectives? Look at which groups are under-represented in out-of-school hours activities.
Identifying these could well make all the difference.
"Many bids fail because they simply don't meet the specified criteria or don't include the correct figures or relevant documentation. Projects often have to be extra-curricular as providers are wary of projects covered by statutory funding.
Where do you go once you have identified a whole-school and community need and have decided to try for additional funding? Many bids require you to work with a partner organisation or raise "matched funds". A partner can be a huge help: you get new ideas, techniques, resources and networks, and valuable assistance in finding sources of money, developing your project, bid-writing and actually managing the project if successful.
You'll also need to show you have thought about monitoring and evaluation - making sure the project has brought the benefits originally promised. This will be especially important for large projects such as sports halls or new artificial pitches.
St Lawrence's has had mixed success with bids, winning Awards for All funding for rugby and tennis equipment, but failing in its hockey equipment bid.
Ms Blackmore, whose small school has football teams for the under-nines, under-11s and girls, stresses the importance of networking. "We work in partnership with our local secondary school who let us use their facilities and also with our partner primary schools so we can use their fields for matches.
"I hold raffles, write letters and badger people locally to purchase equipment, and everything the children achieve is featured in the local paper and in my monthly sports newsletter, which goes to people such as the sports minister, the FA, and Bristol City Council, so they are aware of what the children are up to."
St Lawrence's will be bidding again. It may be a daunting prospect but once you use the cash you'll forget the pain of bidding. Your pupils will reap the benefits of being more active, as well as the extras: better concentration, behaviour, motivation, higher attainment and attendance.
To do all that you'll certainly need more than pound;1.25 per pupil. So let your bidding commence.
Annie Lovett is editorial assistant and researcher for Sportsteacher magazine and compiler of the Sportsteacher Guide to PE Funding, published by Sportsteacher at pound;14. To order ring 01223 728100 or visit www.sportsteacher.co.uk
TEAM UP FOR BIDS GAME
If you need a partner for your bid try these:
* local sports clubs
* community groups, such as those for women from ethnic minorities
* planning departments at your local authority, especially if you're bidding for new or upgraded facilities
* LEA PE advisers
* Sports development officers and council leisurerecreation officers
* School sports co-ordinator or partnership development manager
* County or regional development officers from the national bodies of sport, such as the FA or Lawn Tennis Association
* Other local schools, eg feeder primaries or a specialist sports college
* County sports partnerships
* Specialist Schools Trust, Youth Sport Trust and the DfES (for bids for Sports College status)
* the funding provider itself, be it a large organisation such as Sport England or a local charitable trust.
* The Sportsteacher Guide to PE Funding which lists over 70 funding providers and contains guidance on how to make a successful bid, a glossary of bidding jargon and case studies.