Tower Hamlets pupils protest over sports funding cuts

Tower Hamlets students played their part in a national campaign to save school sports funding by demonstrating outside the Houses of Parliament on Tuesday.

Around 125 young people involved with the borough’s School Sports Partnership joined a national protest against Government funding cuts in Westminster.

The Department for Education announced in October that it would scrap the entire �162m budget for sports partnerships next year.

The partnerships provide sports coaches, inter-school games and extra-curricular clubs to primary and secondary schools.

Shuheb Karim, 17, a student at Sir John Cass Sixth-Form College in Stepney Way, was one of six young people, chosen from across the country, to hand in a petition to Downing Street opposing the move.

It has more than 500,000 signatures nationally.

Mr Karim, a Tower Hamlets’ ‘Young Leader’ for the London 2012 Olympics, said: “I don’t understand why they want to scrap it. Everyone expects cuts but to scrap it, that’s ridiculous.”

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Tower Hamlets representatives waved placards and shared space in Old Palace Yard with British Olympic medallist Denise Lewis.

She was one of 75 top athletes who wrote to the Prime Minister David Cameron opposing the loss of funding and he signalled last Wednesday that a new policy would be unveiled soon.

Jim Fitzpatrick, MP for Poplar and Limehouse and Rushanara Ali, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, spoke to the demonstrators and signalled their support.

Mr Fitzpatrick said: “I don’t think we can save �162m but however much we can save, it will be more than two weeks ago.”

Ms Ali said: “Young people from Tower Hamlets are leading the way on this. “We hope that the government will change its mind.”

The Tower Hamlets partnership, organised around Poplar’s Langdon Park School and Whitechapel’s Bishop Challoner College, gets �350,000 of annual investment.

Helen Tang, 19, a former Sir William Burrough Primary School and Sir John Cass student and now a sports coach, rallied supporters in Parliament Street.

She said: “For ethnic minority groups to be able to participate in sport - it’s because of the partnership.”

Thania Mukith, 20, co-manages the Aberfeldy Anteaters club in Poplar, which competes in the partnership’s biannual Neighbourhood Games.

She said: “If it were to be lost, it would really affect people in this area.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “We will be announcing how we will spend the money we’ve allocated for school sport in due course.”