MP Jim Fitzpatrick questions Government policy on school sports in Commons debate

Following the Government’s announcement of an end to the �162m ring-fenced budget for school sports partnerships (SSPs), Jim Fitzpatrick, MP for Poplar and Limehouse, called for a rethink in Parliament yesterday (November 30).

Speaking during a House of Commons debate, the MP said: “The question being asked in my constituency is: how much longer is Tower Hamlets to bear the brunt of cuts dressed up and designated by the coalition merely as changes designed to make funds “more targeted” or “more effective”?

There are two SSPs in Tower Hamlets, organised around Langdon Park Sports College in Byron Street, Poplar and Bishop Challoner Catholic Collegiate College in Commercial Road.

Both provide managers to develop sports programmes for primary and secondary schools in the borough and allow PE teachers to take time outside of the curriculum to do the same.

Mr Fitzpatrick said he had been in contact with Chris Willetts, Langdon Park’s SSP manager, to get advice on the impact of the SSPs locally.

He said Mr Willetts informed him that there were now 99 newly qualified teachers supported to deliver PE lessons as opposed to zero in 2006.

He also reported to Parliament that in Tower Hamlets, the number of children involved in inter-school sports competitions increased by 6000 to 15,000 in the same period as did the number of young people playing sport outside school which increased from 4000 to 11,000.

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The Langdon Park SSP was set up in 2005.

Mr Fitzpatrick said the Opposition was open to talks with the Government to see whether both parties could arrive at ‘a better solution than that which the Prime Minister suggested last week when, in answering questions, he completely dismissed everything about school sport partnerships’.

In response to the debate, Tim Loughton, the under secretary of state for education said the Government were committed to promoting sport inside and outside of schools.

He said: “The Government are not closing down school sport partnerships; what we are doing is ending the ring-fenced funding for them beyond the summer of 2011.

“Funding was never expected to be of unlimited duration.”