School Sport

Why I miss the School Sports Partnership – a secondary school perspective.

Please bear in mind this is a personal and anecdotal view.

The current PE and Sport Premium for Primary School is getting a lot of positive press at the moment and perhaps it should. However from my point of view things have changed greatly with the new funding and I’m not sure for the best.

The PE, School Sport and Club Links strategy was set up to ensure that all schools delivered 2 hours of quality of PE a week. School Sports Partnerships were part of that strategy. By 2006 all schools in England should have been part of an SSP. A family of Secondary, Primary and Special schools working together to increase the quality and quantity of PE and sports opportunities for young people. From 2007 to 2013 I worked directly with the SSP in my area. In each SSP there was a Partnership Development Manager who was usually funded by a sports college. The SSP also funded a school sports co-ordinator in each secondary school and a primary link teacher in every primary and special school.

My school ran a tag rugby festival for year 3, 4, 5 and 6 students for 14 primary schools. We did this for football, cricket and also athletics. We would have our GCSE and A-level PE students and senior sports players go and coach primary school students regularly in the build up to these events. It was even a Wednesday afternoon community service option we gave to our 6th Form and was quite popular. We had local primary schools come to our school and use our facilities poor as they are. This was being repeated in other local secondaries with other local primaries. From my point of view the SSP was successful in delivering teaching, coaching and competitive sport. I felt we were doing our part to give primary schools as much support and opportunities as possible.

Then in 2010 the current government, decided that SSP wasn’t delivering and would be scrapped. However there was a national outcry and a very sharp u-turn by Gove. Ring fenced funding would only be guaranteed 2011. Schools were no longer required to be part of an SSP, but could continue to do so if they wanted. From 2011 to 2013 funding was only available to pay for one day week of secondary school PE teacher to have a day out of the classroom to continue their links. The SSP asked if the Headteachers of the secondary schools in my area if they would find the money to continue the work. Not one agreed.

In 2013, under great pressure, the government redressed the SSP’s £160 million funding as the PE and Sport Premium for Primary School’s £150 million a year till 2020. That works out as £8,000 per primary school plus an extra £5 per pupil. The money can be used for equipment, bring in specialist coaching or help run after school clubs. The Department for Education’s recent survey shows that it is having a big impact within Primary schools, which is excellent to hear as a secondary school PE teacher.

However I have real concerns. All the things we did as part of the SSP in our area no longer happen and they haven’t been replaced. My colleagues within the five other secondary schools within my LEA also have similar stories to tell with very little contact with their previous primary school clusters. Where competition existed for 14 primary schools with teaching and coaching, with the winners going through to regional competitions, primary schools are now just being asked to go along and represent the area. Primary schools are no longer supported by a network of trained secondary school PE Teachers and full time administrators organising coaching and competition for them.  Provision is intrusted to Headteachers to decide what is best for their school. My issue with this is if they do not have a clear vision of how PE and Sport fits into their educational philosophy this can be counter productive to quality provision as it becomes an add-on. This then means PE and Sport is shipped out to sports coaches and there is great variability in their approach. Although it is against the evidence presented by the DfE I believe that Primary Schools in general have suffered from the withdrawal of the SSP. The need to provide 2 hours  of quality PE and Sport a week looks like it has been abandoned.

As part of our baseline assessments this year we questionnaired all Year 7 students about their experiences of PE and Sport at Primary School. It was clear from the results and their answers how important regular good quality PE teaching is at primary school for the development of confidence and competence in their movement. It should not be the responsibility of sports coaches or other teachers within primary schools to do this. Primary school teachers have enough on their plate to deal with, without having to take on the physical development of a child as well. If the current government truly wants a sporting legacy after the 2012 Olympics then I believe the only way to achieve this is to fund full time PE specialist teachers within all primary schools.

I’d be interested to hear from primary school teachers who have a view on the current funding system and whether in your opinion it is a better model than the previous SSP. Perhaps you could set my anecdotal evidence straight with some hard facts. Maybe I’m not being patient and will have to wait to see the legacy take shape. It would be great to see more children arrive in Year 7 with the basic fundamental motor skills needed to ensure a healthy and active lifestyle.


By @ImSporticus

Lecturer in PE, Sport and Physical Activity. Helping others to flourish through movement.

5 replies on “Why I miss the School Sports Partnership – a secondary school perspective.”

[…] It seems the PPSP is being primarily used, at least in my area, to shift the responsibility of teaching physical education to outside coaches. Whilst I have an understanding why and have a great deal of sympathy about the workload my primary school colleagues have, this approach is going to have a negative impact on the future of our children’s physical development and therefore their later engagement in being active for life.  The funding is currently ring fenced till 2020, but that doesn’t mean the government won’t change its mind, just like it did with the very successful school sports partnerships. A model which I felt would have become a significant driving force, through collaboration of primary…. […]


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