THE pound;60 million scheme to introduce "sports co-ordinators" for schools is about participation, not competition, say PE teachers who have helped to test the initiative.
This week the Secretary of State for National Heritage, Chris Smith, the Culture Secretary, announced that 600 schools co-ordinators would help boost after-school games and revitalise Britain's sporting prospects.
But this has dismayed PE specialists who worked with Sport England (formerly the Sports Council) for three years on the scheme, called "Active Schools".
Geoff Edmondson, general secretary of the British Association of Advisers and Lecturers in PE, said: "We didn't see that organising competitive sport would be the co-ordinators' major role. We thought their task was to raise standards, improve teachers' professional development and increase pupils' participation."
Speaking at a conference organised by the Institute for Public Policy Research in London, Mr Smith said he wanted to see regular sporting fixtures between schools become a mainstay of the school week, not just football and rugby, but cricket, athletics, tennis, swimming, netball and emerging sports such as basketball and volleyball.
Nigel Hook, head of technical services at the Central Council for Physical Recreation, warned that the scheme could lead to cuts in the curriculum time spent on PE and sport. It should not be a substitute as not all children would want to take part in after-school activities; and it could mean more work for teachers.
Dave Renshaw, head of Active Schools, said teachers would be fully consulted before the co-ordinators were appointed.