Uttlesford set to join national demonstration at Whitehall over school sports funding axe

SPORTS leaders and Young Ambassadors in Uttlesford are set to join a national movement against the millions of pounds of cuts to funding for school sports schemes.

Education secretary Michael Gove plans to axe the �162 million investment in school sport from next year, including funding for the network of School Sport Partnerships which enable the district’s secondary and primary school pupils to take part in inter-school tournaments, coaching days and leadership training courses.

The move has been slammed by Graham Jones, the partnership development manager who heads up the scheme in Uttlesford.

“Doing this would have a negative and lasting impact on the delivery of PE and school sports for our young people,” he said.

“With the Olympics around the corner and everybody rightly concerned about teenage obesity, these cuts are just not hanging together for me.”

Mr Jones oversees four sports co-ordinators who are based in each of the district’s secondary schools. Each co-ordinator works two days a week in their respective ‘family’ primary schools, and are dedicated to supporting teachers during PE lessons.

The partnership also delivers 40-odd competitions – both in the families and across the partnership – in the major sports and more diverse activities such as orienteering, dance and cross country.

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Cutting the funding, says Mr Jones, would hinder the massive steps that have been achieved since the scheme started in Uttlesford in 2006.

“When this programme started, 25 per cent of primary school children were doing the Government-recommended two hours of PE a week – that has risen to 95 per cent,” he said.

“We have transformed sport in primary schools in terms of quantity and quality.

“We’re meeting the Government’s desire for competition by bringing it to the grassroots while also bringing diversity.

“Through our funding and support the district now has a fencing club [Saffron Swords] for example. We’ve also been able to deliver a disability programme in cricket and a Golf for Girls initiative, as well as promote activities not normally available to school children such as cheerleading and street dance.”

And he reckons the cuts will also effect the other end of the spectrum: around 40 Year Six children take part in a multi-skills talent camp run by the partnership – another venture that would be lost to the cuts.

“The festival is all about giving identifying talent and giving children opportunities that they would otherwise not have,” he said.

Mr Jones has arranged a meeting with Uttlesford MP Sir Alan Haselhurst and, on December 7, is set to accompany Young Ambassadors from Uttlesford’s five secondary schools - who have been selected and are part of a national programme of Sports Leaders drawn from all 450 sports partnerships - in a nationally-led demonstration at Whitehall to present a petition against the cuts to the Government.