I would like to see more school sport. More schools should have sports days. There should be more sports competitons between schools. However the decision by the Education Secretary Michael Gove to scrap the ring fenced funding of £162 million for School Sports Partnerships was right. Instead he is ensuring more money goes to schools to spend as they wish.

Some schools might spend the money employing a sports coach. One thing that primary schools in my ward may decide to spend a little extra money on is booking the sports pitch in Ravenscourt Park for competitions. The booking fee is £12.30 an hour – which might not sound much these things add up for a school budget. My council gets revenue of around £2,500 from school booking fees in our parks for Sports Days. I don't know how this compares with the other 400 odd councils around the country but if we suppose it is £1 million for such charges in total then it would be nice if councils could manage to promote school sport by waving these charges. Where they remain then at least schools will have a bit more money to pay them.

But what is this £162 million of money to the SSPs for? It is supposed to be "for school sport". But where does it go in practice? Education Secretary Michael Gove explained in the Commons yesterday:

One of the questions that was in my mind was whether we were ensuring that enough was spent on the front line under the current structure. The right hon. Gentleman said that he would support the investment required to retain the infrastructure, but he did not specify what it was. Let me share with the House some of the details of the infrastructure. At present, we have 450 partnership development managers and 225 competition managers. On top of that, there are senior competition managers and on top of that, 11 regional development managers, and on top of that three national development managers. They work alongside the county sport partnerships and the national governing bodies of each sport. How many of those posts are essential to the delivery of an effective school sport offer?

He continued:

 Much of the job description of a partnership development manager depends on full-time strategic management, developingan ongoing self-review document, advocating the priorities of the partnership within wider strategic frameworks, establishing robust data-tracking and monitoring systems, and promoting the benefits and successes of the partnership.

There is inadequate space in the job description for doing what the right hon. Member for Leigh did so well-making the case for improved participation in sport with fervour and passion. [Interruption .] He says, "Let's change it." I agree. We are changing it. He had the opportunity when he was in power; he did not do so. Now he is happy to do so. I am happy to see this movement. The Opposition are happy to acknowledge that we can reduce the amount that is being spent, and happy to acknowledge that there has been too much bureaucracy for partnership development managers. I am delighted to acknowledge that.

The same applies to the role of competition managers. It is vital that we encourage more school competition, but one of the problems is that there is another layer of bureaucracy. What is the role of a competition manager? It is a full-time position responsible for modernising the competition landscape. One has to work strategically with the partnership development manager, manage and co-ordinate the monitoring and evaluation of projects and fulfil local and national data collection requirements. Again, all those take away from the central task of promoting sport with fervour and passion.

The data requirements for school sport partnerships are exemplified in the school sport partnership self-review tool. We all know how onerous tick-box exercises can be, and that exercise has 115 boxes to tick. Every moment spent looking at the self-review tool is a moment that could be spent coaching, inspiring and acting to ensure that more children take part in sport, but unfortunately there is too much bureaucracy.

The effectiveness of the policy is not how much is spent on bureaucracy but how many children actually have the chance to take part in competitive sport. It is about outputs not inputs. Labour spent an extra £2.4 billion on ttheir school sports programme. The result was the numbers of people taking part in gymnastics, rounders and netball have fallen, and the number of schools offering hockey and rugby union has fallen. The number of schools offering swimming has not changed-it was 84% in 2003-04, before £2.4 billion was spent, and it is 84% now. Just two in five people take part in competitive sport within a school-intra-school competition-and just one in five in competitive sport between schools.

14 comments for: Axing the School Sport Partnerships is right

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