Government’s ‘devastating’ plan to scrap Welwyn Hatfield School Sport Partnership

A CAMPAIGN has been launched in Welwyn Hatfield calling on the Government to reconsider its decision to cut funding for sports in schools.

Parents, teachers, sports providers and health campaigners fear the decision by Education Secretary Michael Gove to scrap the �162m School Sport Partnership programme will have a “massively detrimental impact” on young people living in Welwyn Hatfield – now and in the future.

Members of the Welwyn Hatfield Sport and Physical Activity Alliance (WHSPAA) and the Welwyn Hatfield School Sport Partnership (WHSSP) united this week in their plea to make Mr Gove reconsider, and have organised a petition opposing the move.

WHSPAA chairman Dave Bartlett said: “Those of us in community sport, on the outside of schools, have been aware of the tremendous strides in recent years towards not only more sport and physical activity within schools but the increased involvement with clubs, coaches and sports facilities outside of the curriculum. The Government’s plans to scrap SSPs and replace them with Olympic/Paralympic style competitions appear to have been taken without adequate research.”

Partnership development manager Steve Savva warned the effects would be “devastating”

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“The WHSSP is more than just a sports provider,” Mr Savva said. “Our partners and us address issues such as the obesity levels, low self esteem, anti-social behaviour, engagement of sedentary children and we encourage and deliver on leadership, teamwork, healthy living, inclusion and participation.

Sue Lewis, headteacher of Sir Frederic Osborn School, the partnership’s hub school, questioned the timing of the move, with the 2012 London Olympics just around the corner.

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“The proposal to withdraw SSP funding will have a massively detrimental impact on over 11,000 young people across our community and many more in the future,” she said.

“I am sure that this is not the legacy Lord Sebastian Coe envisaged.”

Nick Brooking, the University of Hertfordshire’s director of sport, said: “As a sports professional working in the higher education sector, I am sure we will see a detrimental effect in future as initiatives delivered under SSPs, such as young leaders, ambassadors, officials and volunteers, will at best be sporadic and at worst disappear.”

The WHSSP also approached Welwyn Hatfield MP Grant Shapps to back their campaign.

Mr Shapps admitted that Mr Gove’s decision had been divisive among ministers, but defended the move as “done with the best of intentions.”

He added that he had already spoken personally to Prime Minister David Cameron about the issue.

“I think it’s vitally important some money does still go to sport,” Mr Shapps said. “I know we’re looking very carefully at whether or not this is the right decision.”

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