The Coalition Government’s decision to cut the £162 million ring-fenced funding for the network of School Sports Partnerships is controversial and has sparked a backlash from prominent sports personalities, such as Sir Steve Redgrave, from headteachers and sports coaches across the country. Those opposing the decision describe it as ‘unjustified educationally, professionally, logistically and in terms of personal health and community wellbeing.’ On the other hand, Government tells us that the money will not be lost and that ‘individual schools will receive funds directly to spend as they wish.’
Where in the debate does Cause4 sit? Our thoughts are as follows:
1. Every school in the country should be providing excellent opportunities to enable its pupils to take part in a rich diet of sport, alongside opportunities in music, theatre and community-action programmes, with which to complement the academic curriculum. These are intrinsic to proper education and essential if we are to develop rounded, healthy, fulfilled, interesting and ultimately employable young people.
2. In giving budgetary control to schools to develop the broader curriculum, schools can be held directly to account for the quality of their provision and the performance of staff and others that they directly engage; it will enable schools to develop their programmes in accordance with their own strategic priorities and the skills and enthusiasms of those within their schools and the local community.
3. From the perspective of Cause4, the performance of School Sport Partnerships has been very mixed. The very best of these partnerships are wonderfully led by very capable people who make things happen; the worst of them are almost certainly delivering below par. We should remember that School Sport Partnerships might well operate within a theoretical structure that makes absolute sense, but what it actually delivers will only ever be as good as the people that are engaged at the heart of it.
4. If schools and their headteachers now choose not to invest in school sport and to spend the money available for sport differently, then it be disastrous. On the other hand, if schools and their headteachers value everything that sport can offer and choose directly to invest in it, then there is an opportunity not only to embed whatever might have been achieved successfully through School Sports Partnerships, but to build further upon it. Furthermore, where the people delivering through School Sports Partnerships are high-quality, pro-active and dynamic, there is presumably no good reason why coalitions of local schools should not engage them directly and ask them to carry on the good work.