Playing for Success…but not for long.


Yesterday evening I was the guest of honour at a Playing for Success (PfS) award ceremony. I expect you’ve heard of Playing for Success. No? It’s another superb programme that supports children’s learning and development and has got the thumbs down from the government. Funding ends in March.

 PfS uses top flight sports venues such as premier league football stadiums as after school study centres. PfS is not about sport but uses the discipline that sportspeople have as inspiration to support children in their basic literacy and numeracy skills. Pupils also brush up their ICT and develop their team work, personal and study skills. Pupils from a local secondary school give up their own precious free time to mentor the younger pupils.

 At the event I attended, I handed out certificates and prizes to children from four local primary schools. The kids who attended the study centre after school were supported by their very proud parents. The venue is a world famous centre for sporting excellence and is more than generous with their time and support too. They provide food and drink for the event, a representative speaker and free use of their amazing facilities. They organise for famous players to speak to pupils and provide prizes and support to the programme.

 It’s the second time I’ve presented prizes at this event and I always feel so impressed by what the pupils and their leaders have achieved.  In my speech I acknowledged their hard work and gently reminded the families in attendance that with government cuts biting deeply, we should take advantage of the excellent services we currently enjoy.

 While we hear about the major cuts in the national media, it’s the smaller cuts to children’s services that I think will really harm the chances of state school educated children. And when people describe public sector workers as feckless, lazy and parasitic, perhaps they’d like to see the committed, passionate and energetic staff members that I work with.  Not all of us push papers around.

 So this is where we are:

 Playing for Success: funding ended.

 School Sports Partnership: funded ended.

 National Healthy Schools Programme: funding ended.

 Extended services: funding ended.

 Primary and secondary strategies: funding ended

Happy Christmas and a prosperous new year?


Sport for sport’s sake

I’m still taking in the news that we’ve lost our bid to host the 2018 world cup. I won’t mention all my personal thoughts about this here but they may involve words like ‘robbed,’ ‘Russian mafia,’ and ‘no infrastructure.’ Just saying.

 Meanwhile, the school sports argument has reached fever pitch. I wrote about the cuts to funding to the very successful School Sports Partnership (SSP)a couple of weeks ago, just before it hit the headlines. Since then, quite rightly, many people have argued about the damaging effect that cuts to grass-roots sport will have.

 Just last week the prime minister dismissed the SSP as a ‘complete failure.’ I don’t know who his adviser was on that but I hope s/he has been demoted to counting paper clips. Since then there has been a significant u-turn to the extent that there have been reassurances that school sport will continue to be supported by the government.  We know this is a u-turn because Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said that the government’s position is, ‘not a u turn.’ (try googling the words ‘school sport’ and ‘u turn’ and see what you get.

 I know the SSP very well and have always been a fan. I work closely with the partnership development managers and primary link teachers. More importantly I see for myself the difference in schools: the excellent facilities, the wide range of sports on offer and the number of students engaging in competition. The SSP has also focused on specific groups in the last few years like tricky teenage girls, for example, or the kids they call ‘semi sporty.’ I think I would have been a ‘semi sporty’ when I was at school: loads of enthusiasm but not much skill. And for those who are very sporty, there are gifted and talented programmes and links to county-level sport.

 So well done to those sixty head teachers who wrote a letter to the Observer (I’m pleased to see they include some of the schools I work with) and well done to all these sports fans and personalities who’ve spoken up for the SSP.

 Power to the people and I look forward to seeing what happens next. We can make a difference.

Comprehensive Stendhal Review

The closest I’ve come to experiencing Stendhal’s syndrome was on a trip to Egypt. The sheer magnificence of the ancient Egyptian architecture was such that after a while my brain simply couldn’t cope with the sight of another temple and I was desperate for the cooling balm of a grey office block swathed in drizzle. And no more bloody donkeys.

 I’m beginning to feel a little like this with the spending cuts. At first they were awesome and terrifying and I gazed up at them, shaking my head in wonder. But like those temples they’ve come so thick and fast that I’m feeling dizzy. My poor little brain just can’t cope with any more.

Them: We’ll have to let you go. Sorry, I mean your post is being deleted!

Me: Oh my God what will I do, I’m doomed, the world is doomed, save me! I’ve got one of those huge mortgage thingies they used to give out to everyone.

Them: And we’re cutting schools budgets.

Me: Oh bloody hell, that’s just unfair you greedy lot. Whatever next?

Them: Well we’re slashing the Quangos with gay abandon! Take that useless Quangos!

Me:  I’m sure we can live without Quangos.

Them: While we’re at it, we may as well slash all public sector services. And yes that includes you teachers, nurses and police officers.

Me: Yeah, feckless lot! Get a proper job.

Them: But we’ll make sure that bankers’ bonuses are protected because we wouldn’t want the poor bankers to suffer.

Me: Hurrah! Please take the shirt from my back and the shoes from my feet so the bankers don’t have to suffer. 

Them: And X factor is on again.

Me: Phew, I thought we were all going to hell in a handcart.

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