SCHOOLS PROTEST OVER SPORTS CUTS.
PLANNED massive cuts in government funding for school sports in Coventry and Warwickshire have united teachers and MPs in protest.
Specialist sports schools in the region have joined a national revolt by head teachers against the coalition's plan to axe the entire pounds 162m budget for School Sports Partnerships - to be debated in the Commons today.
They say it will harm the prospects of almost every school child in Coventry and Warwickshire playing sport in the run up to the 2012 Olympics and beyond.
Heads say the partnerships - in which schools link up with each other and community sports clubs - have drastically increased youngsters' sports participation during and outside school hours, and have helped tackle obesity.
Coventry and Warwickshire's six School Sports Partnerships, set up by the previous Labour government in 2005, face the axe, with job losses and a multi-million pound cut.
Six specialist sports schools - Lyng Hall and Woodlands in Coventry and Kenilworth, Kineton High, Harris school in Rugby and Queen Elizabeth, Atherstone - link with others to provide a sports specialist in each school, generate sports in after-school clubs, and other activities.
Conservative education secretary Michael Gove believes it's a classic example of wasteful government target-driven bureaucracy, which has failed to increase just one in five state schoolchildren taking part in competition between schools.
He plans to replace it with a pounds 10m schools Olympics competition, and for schools to decide how they want to spend nonringfenced grants.
But Colin Naismith, of the south Warwickshire partnership, based at Kineton High School, Banbury Road, Kineton, said his pounds 400,000 annual budget for 21,000 fiveto-19 year olds at 72 schools had produced a 25 per cent rise in PE time for primary pupils, to an average two hours a week.
Pupils getting three hours sport a week had drastically risen to 54 per cent, and a third more pupils were taking part in competitions within schools (66 per cent).
Jim Cunningham, Labour MP for Coventry South, said: "Every local school will lose thousands of pounds for PE.
"Ten years ago, one in five local kids did two hours' sport a week. More than nine out of ten do today.
"I stand side by side with parents in Coventry. You want to see your kids competing on the pitch, in the pool or in the gym because sport is also the best way of keeping youngsters fit, healthy and doing something worthwhile with their free time."
Labour Coventry North West MP Geoffrey Robinson visited Woodlands school and sports college, Broad Lane, Coventry, to hear concerns from teachers and parents.
He said: "To cut the entire pounds 162m grant so close to the Olympics and when childhood obesity is such a key public health challenge is wrong. A phased reduction might have allowed other sources of funding to be identified."
Neil Parker, Coventry east School Sports Partnership manager based at Lyng Hall, said pupils taking part in competition between schools among 18,000 pupils in his area had risen from 39 to 48 per cent in five years, and from 59 to 88 per cent taking part in school sport.
UNITED: Geoffrey Robinson MP (centre) visits Woodlands School with (back, from left) Nigel Read, Jon Doherty and Adam Skyrme. (Front) Sarah Atkins, Tom Baker, Nelly Shakeen, Andrew Commandor and Kevin Snow