Competition: Government U-turn puts £65m into school sport

Ministers announced £65m of funding to promote competitive sports in schools over the coming three years after the Government was forced into a partial U-turn on its plan to axe the Schools Sports Partnership.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said that a further 47m would be made available to allow the partnerships to continue up to the end of the academic year in summer 2011.

The 65m from the Department for Education's budget for the period to 2013/14 will then allow every secondary school to release one PE teacher for a day a week to "embed" the benefits from the scheme into its sports provision, he said.

These teachers would aim to encourage greater take-up of competitive sport in primary schools and secure a fixture network for schools to increase the amount of competition within and between schools.

The Education Secretary's announcement that he planned to abolish the 162m-a-year School Sports Partnership sparked protests from the sporting community and headteachers, with Olympic athletes signing a letter calling for a rethink.

A change of heart was first signalled by Prime Minister David Cameron on December 1, just a week after he vigorously defended the plan to axe a scheme he said had been a "complete failure".

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt was reported to have taken the lead in demanding at least a partial reprieve, arguing that scrapping partnerships could harm the UK's pledge to use the 2012 Olympic Games in London to increase participation.

Under yesterday's announcement, lottery funding from Sport England will fund School Games competitions, leading to finals at the Olympic Stadium in spring 2012. The Government will also revise the PE curriculum to give greater emphasis to competitive sports and headteachers will be given greater freedom in how they spend money on sport.

Olympic medallist Dame Kelly Holmes will lead a network of "sporting advocates" to promote youth participation

Mr Gove said: "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.

"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."

Mr Hunt said "Competitive sport is hugely important for all school children and the transitional funding outlined today will allow schools to help deliver this."

MICHAEL GOVE: Wants competitive sport to be at the centre of a rounded education.