Elite Athletes, Olivia Salt and Chris Ellam, speak out over cuts to the School Sports Partnership budget.

Sports Performance Programme athletes criticise sport funding cuts

Two Kingston students on the Sports Performance Programme have spoken out over the government’s decision to make cuts in School Sports Partnership budget.

Rowers Olivia Salt and Chris Ellam have slammed the coalition’s plans, backed by Kingston MP Ed Davey, to make dramatic cuts into the £162m budget ring fenced for the School Sports Partnership (SSP).

Following a campaign consisting of a petition of over 500,000 signatures and the support of some of Britain’s most visible athletes, such as Tom Daley and Denise Lewis, initial proposals to scrap the SSP entirely have been dismissed.

However, the budget will be cut by 87% in the 2011-12 and 2012-13 academic years. Many see this as a threat to the range of sports children will be offered as well as the numbers of children participating in sport.

“With such a cut of funding children will be very limited in their choice of sport,” said Ms Salt.

“The SSP is vital as it gives everyone an equal chance to compete in a sport at every level. This has clear health benefits, widens social groups and builds self confidence.”

Mr Ellam voiced his support for the SSP and the importance of sport for children.

“I think it is of great importance to the well being of children. Bonding through a team activity helps people of different backgrounds communicate in the first instance, this can lead to many positive things,” he said.

“Choice helps a lot of kids who did not feel competitive, namely in the more physical sports, become more involved in the alternatives, and some were brilliant at them.”

There are currently 450 SSPs, employing nearly 22,000 members of staff and covering every school in the country.

The SSPs consist of sport colleges, secondary schools, primary schools and special schools working in unison to develop P.E and sport opportunities for young people.

In the past four years this has enabled 1.63 million more young people to get involved in inter-school competitions and another 1.15 million more students have taken part in intra-school competitions.

The SSPs have sought to replace previous school sports systems which are dominated by core sports such as rugby, football and netball for the schools elite, with the opportunity for children of all levels of ability and experience to take part in a bigger range of sports.

Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, has defended the cuts as he believes the current system is too prescriptive on how individual schools allocate their funding.

“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,” he said.

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