Axeing of SSP is a boost for private schools

Nigel Ford's picture
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This area has been touched on here but I was drawn to a recent article in the Observer which showed that because of the huge budget deficit, sporting opportunities in state schools will suffer due to the £162 million grant for the sports partnership (SSP) being abolished.

I know that when my son started at his local comprehensive in the mid 90s the main deterrent to sending him there wasn't the below average GCSE results but the lack of sports opportunities compared with the 4 other available comps in the town. When my son was at his local Primary school he'd been selected to play cricket for the county U'11 side but the only sports his new school offered were basketball and football. Although he enjoyed these, as well as the lack of school cricket there were no opportunities to play hockey, rugby or tennis either had he so desired. This was in contrast to my public school education where all these sports were on the curriculum (although I wasn't the best pupil to maximise them). Fortunately, through the kindness of others my son was ably to pursue cricket and football through local clubs. However, the SSP was a recent programme for schools like my children's where specialized outside assistance could be bought in to develop kids potential in school (in games they might not ever have played) and help them bond together through team competition.

Although professional football is dominated by ex state school pupils (many public schools still turn their noses up at this game and it isn't officially on their games menu) and despite the huge resources and specialised staff that are available in the independent sector, I'm proud that state schools still produces many of our top sportsmen and women. This includes Martin Johnson, the man who lifted the Rugby World Cup in 2003, Flintoff and Botham our top cricket allrounders without whom we'd never have won the Ashes in the last 25 years, Andy Murray, the best male post war tennis player, Rebecca Adlington and Tom Daley who were among the gold medal winners at the last Olympics (although Tom has subsequently taken up a sports scholarship at Millfield school and who can blame him or his parents). Furthermore, it wasn't as if any of the above sportspeople were the product of grammar schools.

So now that the SSP will cease many state kids are unlikely to have the opportunity to play sports and receive the specialised tuition that is available to those in the private sector. How many more cricketers, rugby players, tennis players and Olympians will we see emerge from state schools? How many parents with gifted sports children will opt to send their child to state schools when their private counterparts have so much better facilities with possible scholarships as a bribe?

Cutbacks need to be made in the public sector, not least because of the £ trillions of interest that has to be paid to service the existing deficit which rises by the day. However, many head teachers are bitterly opposed to the SSP cut. If Cameron, Clegg or Gove had a child with sporting ability being taught in the state sector, I wonder whether there might just have been a way to save this grant to further their sporting chances.
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