Press release

New approach for school sports: decentralising power, incentivising competition, trusting teachers

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Michael Gove sets out the direction of travel, and initial funding, for the coalition government’s new approach to school sports.

Michael Gove has today set out the direction of travel, and initial funding, for the coalition government’s new approach on school sports. Schools will receive funding to allow PE teachers to further embed competitive sport in schools across the country and raise participation.

Every secondary school will receive funding up to the end of the academic year in 2013 to pay for one day a week of a PE teacher’s time to be spent out of the classroom, encouraging greater take-up of competitive sport in primary schools and securing a fixture network for schools to increase the amount of intra- and inter-school competition.

Lottery funding from Sport England will also be deployed to build a framework of competitions as part of the new School Games. Competitions for pupils with disabilities and SEN will be included at every level. All schools will be invited to compete against one another in district competitions, leading to county festivals of competitive sport, and even the chance of appearing in the first national finals in spring 2012 with events at the Olympic Stadium.

This approach will mean that funding and support are there so that school sports partnerships can continue, if schools wish them to, in order to drive an increase in competitive sport.

The government will also:

  • revise the PE curriculum in our curriculum review to place a new emphasis on competitive sports
  • invite Dame Kelly Holmes to lead a network of sporting advocates to work with her in promoting school sport around the country and to encourage more young people to participate in sport
  • work through Sport England with the national governing bodies of individual sports to get more volunteer sports leaders and coaches into our schools to encourage wider participation
  • fund the Youth Sport Trust to expand the Young Ambassadors programme so that every secondary school, and some primary schools too, can appoint ambassadors in the run up to London 2012.

The coalition government’s new approach marks a departure from the previous strategy.

Previously, PE and Sports strategy was driven by top-down targets, undermined by excessive bureaucracy, limiting the freedom of individual schools on how they used their funding, especially on sports and PE and lacked a proper emphasis on competitive team sports.

We have abolished the targets and the box-ticking that went with it. Instead we will ask schools to list the sports they offer and the fixtures they have arranged on their website so parents and the local community can support children and young people.

We have removed ringfences around the main school funding pot which limited headteachers’ powers to spend money as they wished. Schools funding can now be spent through a variety of sources. For the first time schools now have the freedom to choose how they deliver sport in schools. This is a bottom-up, decentralised approach to sport.

As we move towards a system where schools enjoy progressively greater freedom over how they spend money it is important that we do not lose the benefits of those aspects of the existing school sports infrastructure which have brought real benefits.

The government recognises the good work that school sport partnerships, and national bodies such as the Youth Sports Trust, Sport England, the Association for PE, Sportscoach UK, and many national governing bodies of sport, have done in supporting sport in schools and wants to ensure that there is a smooth transition to this new system. The Department for Education is therefore announcing time-limited funding to help schools embed this good practice:

  • The DfE will pay school sport partnerships for the full school year to the end of the summer term 2011 at a cost of £47 million. This will ensure the partnerships and their service can continue until the end of the academic year.
  • A further £65 million from the DfE’s spending review settlement will be paid to enable every secondary school to release one PE teacher for a day a week in the school year 2011 to 2012 and in 2012 to 2013. This will ensure all the benefits of the current system are fully embedded.

Michael Gove commented:

I want competitive sport to be at the centre of a truly rounded education that all schools offer. But this must be led by schools and parents, not by top down policies from Whitehall. It’s time to ensure what was best in school sport partnerships around the country is fully embedded and move forward to a system where schools and parents are delivering on sports with competition at the heart.

This will take some time and I’m pleased to be able to confirm some funding for school sports partnerships during this transition. But I’m looking to PE teachers to embed sport and put more emphasis on competitions for more pupils in their own schools, and to continue to help the teachers in local primary schools do the same.

The government is clear that at the heart of our ambition is a traditional belief that competitive sport, when taught well, brings out the best in everyone, be they the Olympian of tomorrow or the child who wants to keep fit and have fun learning new sports and games.

Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport Jeremy Hunt said:

The School Games will be a fantastic opportunity for schools to get children inspired by the London Olympics, not just in 2012 but for years to come, creating a lasting sporting legacy. The competition will capture the values and spirit of the Olympic and Paralympic movement, and benefit from the knowledge and expertise of the Youth Sport Trust. And with competitions up and down the country with the final being held in the Olympic Park, it will also secure the passions and enthusiasm of the young competitors. Competitive sport is hugely important for all school children and the transitional funding outlined today will allow schools to help deliver this.

Baroness Sue Campbell, Chair of the Youth Sport Trust, said:

The Youth Sport Trust is absolutely delighted that the coalition government has taken the decision to build on the great work that is being delivered across the country in school sport and is providing a level of investment that will allow all young people to continue to have opportunities to take part, and compete, in sport. We are fully committed to support schools as they transition into this new phase of development.

Dame Kelly Holmes is a well-known, independent, respected and long-standing advocate of school sport. The Secretary of State has invited Dame Kelly to lead sporting advocates to work with her in promoting school sport around the country and to encourage more young people to participate in sport.

Dame Kelly said:

I’ve been pleased to be able to advise the government on school sport. I am pleased to see the funding extended as I believe the school sport partnerships have done some great work and think their biggest success has been to raise the profile of sport in schools, bring PE and sport to more children and the professional standing of all the teachers who teach PE and sport.

However with the need for change in the current economic climate, schools will start to be creative in their thinking to find local solutions to maintain the current levels of participation in sport as well as a focus on competition. I like the emphasis on competition as well as participation because healthy competition is the driving force behind every world-class sports person, as well as giving every child key life skills. I hope to see communities helping their local schools to run a range of competitions for all and for sport to be a high priority in the run up to 2012 and beyond.

Notes to editors

  1. The coalition government is committed to reducing bureaucracy to give teachers the freedom they need to run their schools. As announced in October, the Department has lifted the many requirements of the previous Government’s PE and Sport Strategy, so giving schools the clarity and freedom to concentrate on competitive school sports. This included the need for schools to:
    • plan and implement a centralised approach to sport
    • collect information about every pupil for an annual survey
    • deliver a range of new Government sport initiatives each year
    • report termly to the Department on various performance indicators (the school sport; partnership self-review tool involves 115 tickboxes)
    • conform to a national blueprint for how to deliver PE and sport, and how to use their staff and resources
    • get permission from the Department to use their funding flexibly or to vary how they do things.
  2. The new £65 million will be spread over 3 financial years: 2011-12 to 2013-14.

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