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YOUR VIEWS: LOTTERY'S pounds 70m LOST ON SPORT IN SCHOOL.

Byline: TOM WELLS

MILLIONS of pounds in lottery money may have been wasted on persuading Midland kids to take up sport.

The New Opportunities Fund and Sport England have given around pounds 70 million to West Midlands schools and clubs to boost their facilities and programmes since 1996. But despite the huge level of investment youngsters across the region are still SHUNNING physical activities.

A recent Sport England survey has revealed that the number of children doing more than two hours school physical eduction per week has increased by a paltry three per cent since 1994.

It also showed that less than 50 per cent of children are now receiving the minimum two hours PE a week.

And 39 per cent of sports teachers claim that their facilities are only 'fairly or wholly inadequate'.

The worrying figures have emphasised the growing problem of overweight and unfit British children.

Around 460,000 under 16s are now said to be obese, while a staggering 20 per cent of nine year-olds are officially overweight.

Michael Fabricant, Conservative MP for Lichfield, who sits on the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, said: 'This issue is becoming a huge problem.

'Obesity in children is increasing, because the most exercise many children get these days is a walk to the nearest McDonalds.

'Lottery funding given to Sport England and the New Opportunities Fund needs to be spent much more effectively if there is to be an improvement in children's health and fitness.'

Sport England has handed over pounds 9.2 million to West Midlands sports projects since 1996 and the New Opportunities Fund has given pounds 61 million since 1998.

Both organisations are solely funded by Lottery cash from ticket sales and are two of six groups which benefit from this type of funding.

Tessa Jowell, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, recently announced that the New Opportunities Fund and the much-criticised Community Fund will merge later this year.

Simon Hall, Development Manager for Sport England in the West Midlands, acknowledged that some of their more successful projects had not been given enough funding.

'We have given roughly pounds 1 million to schools participating in the School Sport Coordinator programme which frees up teachers to plan sports activities for kids,' he said.

'It has been very successful and, had we concentrated our funds on programmes like this nationally, maybe the results of the survey would have been different.'
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUE
Date:Mar 16, 2003
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