Turf wars jeopardise boost for school sport;News;News and opinion

26th November 1999 at 00:00
THE pound;60 million scheme for 600 extra staff to boost sport in schools is caught in a row between two funding bodies and turf wars between government departments.

Sport England (formerly the Sports Council) pledged to give pound;30m of Lottery money for "active sport co-ordinators" last May as part of its 10-year strategy to improve the nation's sports facilities and opportunities.

However, after the uproar in the right-wing press over the dropping of the compulsory team games for 14 to 16-year-olds, the scheme was hijacked by the Department of Culture Media and Sport.

Culture Secretary Chris Smith went on the offensive. He told the Institute for Public Policy Research that "this wonderful intitiative would boost after-school and Saturday sport and revitalise the nation's sporting chances".

Sport England's original idea was to use the co-ordinators to raise standards of physical education, help staff development and increase pupils' participation rather than just run competitive games.

But Tony Blair reinforced the competitive sport message at the Labour party conference in September, pledging that the first 100 co-ordinators would be in post in a year's time to give a major boost to inter-school contests. Mr Smith also announced that the New Opportunties Fund was to give another pound;30m towards the scheme.

But the New Opportunities Fund and the Department for Education and Employment were, apparently, furious at not being consulted first. An NOF spokesman would only say this week that it was still in discussion with Chris Smith how funding for out-of-school hours learning could work effectively. The DFEE now seems to have acccepted the idea.

The PE world is cautious about the scheme. Sue Campbell, chief executive of the Youth Sport Trust, said: "There are huge logistical issues." She wanted to know if the co-ordinators would be qualified PE teachers or coaches, how much time would be devoted to the curriculum and if there were enough PE teachers to fill the posts.

A proposal by sports minister Kate Hoey that PE teachers could start work later and finish later to supervise after-hours games, has not been developed.

PE curriculum, 25

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