Good morning, it’s great to be able to join you this morning.
And I’d like to start by saying a genuine thank you to all the county sports partnerships (CSPs) represented here. And in particular for your ongoing work to help schools maximise the impact of the primary PE and sport premium. Your guidance is vital, not just to the brokering of relationships between schools, coaches, clubs and leisure providers; but in passing on love of sport to the next generation. Something I hope we share.
Because, if you haven’t already guessed, or seen it before, that’s me, imitating my childhood idol, Big Joe Corrigan - Man City and sometimes England goalie from late the 70s/early 80s. In my eyes, nobody came close to matching his brilliance - even when he conceded the goal that put Tottenham ahead 3-2 in the 1981 FA Cup final replay. Big Joe took away man of the match. To me, he’d always be unbeatable.
I’d hazard a guess he’s not your sporting hero, but I’m sure each of you has your own version of this picture, because it’s our individual love of sport that brings us all together today. We’re united by those little individual passions that ignite the whole sporting industry - and recognise that together we can achieve so much more.
Unless we pass that passion on to the next generation, we’ll never know what kind of talent walks through the doors of our schools day in and day out.
Because every child, in every part of the country, deserves to find that one sport they are really passionate about - and I’m convinced that CSPs are the people to turn that national vision into a local reality. Let me explain why.
National partners have worked hard across the sporting fraternity to agree a consensus on what our priorities should be, and where our efforts need to be focused. When it comes to sport and physical activity, with a single, clear message, schools will be in no doubt about what’s expected of them. For every child in every school, and for future generations to enjoy the same benefits.
That single, overriding priority has got to be sustainability. With that in mind, as a government we’ve targeted £450 million of funding over 3 years into the PE and sport premium, to improve sports for children in primary schools across the country.
Since 2013, 18,000 schools have received funding that’s enabled those thousands of schools to invest in and improve the quality of sports they offer - and provide access to a wider variety of activities for their children.
Independent research by Natcen into the use and impact of the premium has so far found a 91% increase in the quality of PE teaching - and a 13-minute increase in curriculum time being dedicated to PE.
That’s brilliant progress. But to really embed and sustain that progress, the Prime Minister has since personally pledged £150 million of funding a year every year for the premium, until at least 2020. And although, sadly, I may have moved on, CSPs are in it for the longhaul.
That’s why it’s so important that schools from Cornwall to Cumbria, and everywhere in between, work with their CSP to achieve our goal of sustainability. These local knowledge hubs have been built through your expertise as coaches, club leaders, and community networks. And with such a powerful reach, you’ve so much to offer schools.
Cumbria’s Impact Factor Project has not only considered the provision of the premium, but measured the impact of it too. Because the work doesn’t stop when the money’s been spent. In many respects, that’s when the work begins - to assess, to evaluate and to prove that the money is making a real difference to the sporting achievements of young people.
Howard Todd’s excellent work has been cascaded to Cumbrian subject leaders, and helped them to devise realistic lesson plans, evaluate what external providers have contributed. And crucially, to put the child back at the centre of PE lessons.
And at the opposite end of the country there’s equally impressive work going on. This year’s seen the final of the Cornish indoor rowing championships in the Cornish school games. With 255 competitors from 15 schools and colleges, it’s a record year for them.
Using the ‘go race indoors’ framework, the event brought together British Rowing, the Cornwall Sports Partnership, Newquay Sports Centre, Tretherras School, Treviglas School and Caradon Gig Club.
A mouthful, yes, but partnership working if ever I heard it! And that’s the sort of collaboration that’ll be crucial to the future success of school sports.
Now, I know CSPs are already sharing best practice with one another, but this is something I want to see more of, throughout the country, and alongside other local sporting organisations, too. Let’s see networks working together to share and overcome the similar issues they face, and provide the best level of access for every child.
Rural areas of the south can learn from the rural areas of the north - and inner-city CSPs should be match-making leisure centres with underused facilities, with schools that are bursting at the seams. After all, their grounds are often separated by less than a mile.
The Essex CSP has, in the spirt of joined-up working, dispatched 5 primary expert practitioners to 80 local schools, to offer one-on-one support and assess staff training needs. They’ve also freed up Friday afternoons to run workshops for primary school co-ordinators.
At the request of local schools, the Northamptonshire CSP has set up a ‘fantastic coach’ campaign, to help schools recruit the right coaches - and uphold the relevant national guidance and safeguarding checks. They also co-ordinate the county’s school swimming programme.
Every county, not just Northamptonshire, should have access to a helpful checklist of guidance on sourcing suitable candidates and using them effectively. That’s why, in recognition of the valuable role coaches play in improving PE, I visited Berrymede Junior School last week to launch the new coaching portal.
Many of those involved in developing the portal attended the launch - the list of organisations reads like a who’s who in the world of sports education. But it’s that close working that will help schools spend their premium wisely, and make the task of employing a great coach that much easier.
It was fantastic to be joined at the launch by bronze medallist Bianca Williams, who talked about how having a great coach helped her to believe in herself, overcome that fear of failure, to find purpose and desire to push her talents to the limit.
And whilst at Berrymede, I got to play a sport I’d never come across before called Whitagu, a sort of cross between table tennis and badminton. I confess I got really into it (perhaps a little too over-enthusiastic) and it took some effort to drag me away.
But it was great to hear that Berrymede has run the first ever national seminar on Whitagu, and are making use of other local facilities in the area to promote PE and sport in the community. But again this is where CSPs can make a difference; because I heard that Berrymede’s partnership with the Westway climbing centre was all down to the brokerage of London Sport CSP.
Pupils at Berrymede are not only getting subsidised climbing sessions, but at lunchtimes, they’re rushing to be the first on the new climbing walls. It’s not unless children get to try a range of sports that they can work out which one might be the perfect match for their abilities.
And thanks to London Sport, pupils in Acton are having a go at a sport many inner-city children miss out on. The coaching portal will help link local CSPs directly to headteachers and local experts.
But CSPs aren’t just a useful signposting tool for schools. CSPs are full of trainers and coaches in their own right, and in recognition of this, I’m delighted to announce that we will continue to fund the volunteer leaders and coaches fund into the next financial year.
Volunteer leaders and coaches
The funding we have provided since 2011 to support school games looks set to exceed its target of 1,470 volunteers by March this year - and so much has already been achieved.
Volunteers are being recruited at a younger age, they’re being offered formal qualifications, and ultimately, sustainability in the volunteering network is gradually being built up.
I saw just how exciting and fun the School Games are for myself when I attended the Bedford and Luton level 3 games last year.
The atmosphere was really electric, and in light of such great events, the department will continue funding you to build capacity for the games in the future.
In addition to boosting volunteer numbers, School Games has been instrumental in making sure that when we talk about ‘access to sport for every child, in every part of the country’, disabled children are very much a part of that - when we say ‘every child’ we mean just that.
Every single child, regardless of their ability, has the right to discover a passion for sports in the same way you and I have. The legacy and sporting heroism seen in the Paralympic Games should be enough to convince anyone of the potential achievement of disabled athletes.
The inclusivity of school games has seen nearly 30,000 disabled children take part in the programme - and created hundreds of volunteering opportunities for them, too.
The Inclusive Community Training programme has just topped 1,000 trainees - a fantastic achievement. Last month I announced an extension to the Project Ability programme for another year, with £300,000 of additional funding to do just that. Schools will be able to carry on offering competitive entry for their young students with disabilities, at every level of school.
And we’ve a similar responsibility to increase the number of girls taking part in sports. As the only programme where girls have outnumbered boys - making up 52% of the participants - the School Games is an important way to continue levelling the playing field for young women.
I visited Lambeth Academy last week and saw United Learning’s X-Elle programme not only working to increase physical activity among girls, but also to teach them about body confidence and team work too.
Olympian mentors like skier Chemmy Alcott and hockey player Alex Danson were there to encourage girls to get involved in sport, and their confidence and positive attitude was infectious.
It’s important for girls to know that women like Chemmy, Alex and Bianca didn’t get to where they are today by passing up chances to stretch their physical horizons –
but by boldly stepping up and discovering their sporting talent, together with all the social, emotional and educational benefits it brings.
So, with the new coaching portal and and extension of the volunteer leaders and coaches grant, 2015 is looking to be a year full of exciting developments and real opportunities for CSPs all over England.
I know of course that working with schools is only one strand of your work, but our vision for a sustainable sporting legacy in schools is only possible with your expertise.
Schools need you to share that with them. So I want to set a challenge for every CSP leader here today.
I’m sure many of you can already do this. But if you can’t, I’d like you to leave here today and find out the name of at least one sports teacher in every school on your patch. Pick up the phone, and introduce yourself.
You’ll be surprised by just how much your knowledge of the local sporting scene could transform sports for primary school children. After all, today’s primary children are tomorrow’s secondary school children; they are the future members of sports clubs and teams - and perhaps even the stars of the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
I was inspired by Big Joe; but now is not my time, it’s our children’s. So I want to see every single child benefitting from an inspiring coach, or the chance to try an exciting new sport. And in doing so, be indebted to your passion and commitment.
Thank you for listening, and I hope you have a fantastic convention.