Sports Cuts 'Will Hit Disabled and Disadvantaged Children'

Article excerpt

Byline: Anna Davis Education Correspondent

DISADVANTAGED children will miss out on playing sport because funding cuts will force schools to close specialist clubs, experts said today.

Autistic children, young people in wheelchairs and pupils at risk of being expelled will be worst hit by government plans to cut grants for sport, council leaders said.

Harrow borough has written to Education Secretary Michael Gove in protest at plans to stop funding for School Sports Partnerships, which it says have helped thousands of "non-sporty" young Londoners try out new games.

The money pays for co-ordinators to promote sport among schools and has led to many non-mainstream teams being set up.

Brian Gate, Harrow councillor in charge of schools and colleges, said those who would not ordinarily make the "first 11" had been able to get involved because of the scheme.

"Autistic children who don't like playing in teams can be coached in archery, those with disabilities can play boccia [a ball game played by wheelchair athletes], and in wheelchair badminton teams.

"Boxing clubs have proved a successful tool in keeping children at risk of exclusion in school by teaching them a sense of discipline," he said.

Mr Gove announced plans to remove all of the [pounds sterling]162 million funding for School Sports Partnerships last year. He was heavily criticised by teachers and sports people and last month said the scheme would be funded until September, at a cost of [pounds sterling]47 million. After that, one PE teacher at each school will be paid for one day a week to co-ordinate the scheme.

Mr Gate said the money was "simply not enough". In a letter to Mr Gove he writes: "Young people are being disproportionately hit by the savage cuts your government is making.

"Free swimming and school building schemes were among the first victims. More recently young people are being slapped with the prospect of rocketing university tuition fees and now the loss of the School Sports Partnerships. …