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Cuts create two-tier school sport system in Sussex
A postcode lottery has created a two-tier school sports system in Sussex, experts have claimed.
In the shadow of the Olympics, youngsters in some areas of the county are benefiting from a better standard of physical education than others.
Before the government scrapped funding for school sports partnerships last year, Dorothy Stringer School in Brighton managed £320,000 a year of central government funding that helped tens of thousands of local children.
With the money, the school, which was the city’s sports partnership hub, organised “sport for all” in 72 other schools in the area.
It provided expert PE teachers and sports coaches for all ages, from those in infant schools to sixth-form colleges.
But when the money dried up, organiser Andy Marchant had to lay off his staff of school sport co-ordinators.
However, schools in areas including Mid Sussex and Chichester clubbed together to keep their partnerships going.
Mr Marchant, now working as “school games organiser” for Brighton and Hove, said the city was “on its knees”.
He said: “Other parts of the county are better off because they maintained their school sports partnerships so they can run PE training courses for their teachers. Here the council and schools felt they couldn’t sustain that.
“In Mid Sussex, for example, they’ve got school sports coordinators but we have lost those. We had our legs cut off and we are trying to pick up the pieces.
“But, in terms of what we are delivering, there are still good opportunities here. I personally still believe we have some of the best activities for kids in the county.”
Mr Marchant said he had been forced to reach out to volunteers and to the business community for funding to keep sports sessions going.
He said: “We have had a lot of support from the cricket club and Albion in the Community. That’s how we need to operate now. The truth is we can’t wait for a legacy to be handed to us in Brighton and Hove. We’ve got to create one of our own.”
Lorraine Everard from Active Sussex helped keep the Mid Sussex School Sports Partnership going after it lost all its government funding last year.
She said: “It’s been resurrected because the schools in the area very much wanted it and were prepared to commit some funding to it so we could keep it going.
“We knocked on head teachers’ doors across the area to show why it mattered. It all impacts directly on the kids.
“Since then we have given teachers PE training and we have set up new clubs for sports like handball. We have set up a project to capture the Olympic spirit.
“But obviously in Brighton and Hove they don’t have that capacity.”
Georgie Kennedy, chairperson of the Brighton and Hove Parents Group, said the problem was “extremely concerning”.
She said: “Being healthy and active is vitally important for our children and it’s shocking that kids in Brighton and Hove appear to be losing out.”
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