The subject of encouraging children to have active lifestyles is one that we at Streetspace feel very passionate about and have focused on several times in the past. This includes blogs about the government developing plans to help children play more sport and campaigning to close the gender sports gap in schools and keep girls active. Therefore, we are pleased to hear that the Department of Education in Northern Ireland is to spend £600,000 on a new sports and emotional resilience programme in primary schools.
The scheme will be run jointly by the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) and Irish Football Association (IFA), with funding initially for one year and focusing on pupils aged 7 to 11. It is hoped it will introduce children to new sports and skills as they approach the transition to post-primary school. However, this good news must also be viewed against the £1.3m annual funding cut in 2018 to a previous sports programme, which employed around 50 GAA and IFA coaches.
In a joint statement, Ulster GAA and the IFA welcomed the funding: “The coaching partnership will help develop a life-long love of sport and it is intended that the new programme will have a particular focus on boosting participation among girls. It is also proposed that coaches will deliver workshops aimed at increasing emotional resilience in Primary 7 school children ahead of their move to secondary education.”
And in related news, the Youth Sport Trust (YST) recently announced that the UK Department for Education has confirmed that it will fund the Primary PE and Sport Premium for the 2019/20 academic year. This means that a total of £320 million will again be made available to primary schools in England to improve the quality of PE and sport.
Responding to the update, YST Chief Executive Ali Oliver said: “It is good news that primary schools know the certainty over their PE and sport premium for the next academic year. This funding brings with it a huge amount of potential to improve children’s formative experiences of PE at primary school but it will be vital that it is spent in the right way … With a School Sport Action Plan due to be published by government soon, we look forward to seeing a more long-term, joined up approach which reverses cuts to PE and maximises the potential of sport and play to improve children’s wellbeing and life chances.”
At Streetspace we fully support investment in the provision of sports activities for children throughout the country and hope to see this continue and developed further.