School sports still under threat despite a U-turn

BIG question marks still hang over the body which runs school sports despite an apparent Government U-turn over its funding.

In October, the Government announced the Hastings and Rother School Sports Partnership (HRSSP) which trains and supports PE teachers, organises inter-school fixtures and runs specialist projects with troublesome youngsters would close as part of the Department of Education’s cuts.

Amber Rudd was one of many local MPs to lobby the Education Secretary Michael Gove and in December it was announced that £112 million would be made available for the scheme.

But Sandra Pamplin, the HRSSP development manager, said the new arrangements would cut in half the time PE teachers could spend on the scheme, focused too much on secondary schools and gave schools an opt-out.

She said: “It is still up in the air - some of the spin put on this has been quite clever. Funds for the support staff are not there after this year and because the funding is not ring-fenced some schools might turn round and say they are so stretched they cannot afford to release a member of staff for one day a week.

“The impact we have made here has been huge. We have had examples of young people who were an absolute pain on the streets who have gone on to work for Hastings Borough Council, we have had people in danger of being excluded who have gone through our projects and are back in the classroom.”

Mrs Pamplin said Government concerns over falling participation in traditional school sports was misguided because youngsters were being offered a much wider range of activities, and pointed to the ongoing success of the South East Stars cheerleading squad as proof that the approach is working.

“This is an area with a lot of deprivation and no big sports clubs to offer these opportunities. Through sport we can give people the confidence to go forward and do what they want to in life. That may seem like a little thing but it is so important to them.”

Ms Rudd though was more upbeat, praising the impact the scheme had made here in Hastings and optimistic for its future.

“I met with the leaders of the HRSSP when the cut was first announced and they were pretty apoplectic. They demonstrated the enormous contribution they have made and I spoke to the schools who agreed it was an important service. I lobbied Michael Gove personally and wrote to him - I made their point loud and clear and I find it quite encouraging that when MPs are unhappy the Government, will listen.

“This settlement gives us some time and we can see where to go from here,” she added.