Britain's top sporting figures urge Government to guarantee £320m funding for primary school PE
Posted: Tue, 30 Jun 2020 13:25
An open letter calling for the Government to guarantee its primary school sport funding continued to gather overwhelming support from the nation's sports stars when it was sent on Thursday to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Alex Danson, the Olympic gold-medallist, said that PE was "not a luxury" but "an education that will change lives" and, in joining more than 100 other leading sportspeople, urged the Government "to protect the funding and give every young person the start in life they deserve".
Alison McGovern, the shadow sports minister, also joined Tracey Crouch, the Conserative MP and former sports minister, in calling for clarity and warned of "catastrophic" consequences if health inequalities were not tackled.
"With no date in sight for leisure facilities to reopen and many children facing a summer without recreational sport, guaranteeing the PE and Sport Premium is even more important," she said.
The concern centres on the £320 million PE and Sport Premium, which is largely funded by the Sugar Tax, and which the Government has so far refused to guarantee from the next academic year in September.
This has put the jobs of numerous PE providers and staff at risk and sparked fears that, at a time when an inactivity crisis among young people has been worsened by the coronavirus lockdown, there could be even less opportunity for children to get active at school.
Rugby World Cup winner Lawrence Dallaglio and Commonwealth Games gold medal-winning gymnast Craig Heap have been helping to lead a campaign that is also being coordinated by Alan Watkinson, Sir Mo Farah's former PE teacher, and Vincent Brittain, the chief executive of Inspire Plus, a Grantham-based sport and education charity.
"It is well documented that physically educated children have far better life chances," said Watkinson. "At a time when the health of the nation has been exposed to be incredibly poor, the obesity crisis critical and our inequalities vast, this message needs loudly reinforcing. I am baffled as to why the Government has not doubled down on this and put it at the centre of school and children's recovery."
Heap, who also competed for Great Britain at the 2000 Olympics, said that his subsequent work in schools was "one of the highlights of my life" and that he knew first-hand the importance of the ring-fenced funding, which is worth £16,000 annually to every primary school. "This isn't just about nurturing sporting talent," he said. "It's helping and motivating young people to become the best version of themselves, and building the character traits and skills which will help them to lead happy, healthy lives. It would be a tragedy for our young people if the funding was cut."
Brittain, who played football for Luton Town and has taught PE in primary schools, said that he was "amazed" by the "damaging" lack of clarity. "Many staff working in schools who are responsible for supporting children being physically active have been informed their jobs are at risk," he said. "Schools can't put plans in place for their provision in September which will compromise what children will receive, many of whom will not have been in school since March.
"Government wanted us all to be active in lockdown to give people the best chance to beat Covid-19 and help with our wellbeing. We can't allow all the vital work that schools are doing now to stop and for children to be less active out of lockdown and not have the opportunity to maximise their wellbeing."
More than 100 sportspeople, including Farah, Hannah Cockroft and numerous other Olympic, Paralympic, World, European and Commonwealth champions, have signed the open letter, which asks for immediate certainty on the funding.
The letter, which coincides with the Youth Sport Trust's first-ever virtual school sport week, follows alarming new research which shows that one in 10 children have been getting no daily activity during lockdown.
The Department for Education said that the government "wants to make sure all children are getting an active start in life", but said "the position of the PE and Sport Premium in the 2020/21 academic year will be confirmed shortly".
Source: The Guardian