Campaigners win fight to keep school sports funding

THE government has made a dramatic U-turn and promised not to scrap funding for school sports after sports stars, headteachers and pupils staged a major protest campaign.

The move to axe the �162million School Sports Partnership programme (SSP) – aimed at raising participation in school sports – was met with national outcry from top athletes including diver Tom Daley and heptathlete Denise Lewis, headteachers, politicians and campaigners across the country.

Hundreds of pupils from across the country delivered half a million signatures opposing the cuts to Downing Street earlier this month.

But on Monday, education secretary Michael Gove announced it would provide �47million for the rest of this academic year, and an additional �65million spread over the following two years.

Elaine Burgess, partnership development manager for Barking and Dagenham SSP, said: “We welcome the announcement but it’s a cautious welcome. It lets us complete our plans for this academic year.”

But she raised concerns about the future of the scheme beyond 2013.

Mrs Burgess said she believes the campaign played a “huge role” in bringing about the U-turn.

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She added: “I don’t think Michael Gove foresaw the international and national athletes and headteachers coming out in such force.

“Little did they know about the power of the people and about how much young people have been engaged.”

Dagenham MP Jon Cruddas said: “This amounts to a partial U turn – but we still have to acknowledge it is down to effective campaigning for the SSPs and I want to congratulate those who came down for the rally a couple of weeks ago.

“It certainly put more pressure on the government and partly accounts for the announcement this week.

“I just wish Mr Gove would perform another U-turn and help us rebuild all of our secondary schools and increase support for primary ones. He might also change the disastrous decision on EMAs which will directly affect a lot of families in the borough.”

In this borough, more than 35,000 pupils were set to lose out on the chance to engage in wide-ranging extra curricular activities which schools cannot offer on their own, such as street dance, cheerleading, bmx biking, climbing and golf.

The cash will pay for one day a week of a PE teacher’s time at each secondary school to organise and run activities outside the classroom, compared to the two days they were allowed up to now.