Lottery to fund pounds 100m sporting academy

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The Independent Online
John Major launched a new initiative yesterday designed to put sport at the centre of school life and establish a pounds 100m British Academy of Sport funded by National Lottery cash.

Central to the new proposals is the encouragement given to schools to maximise the time devoted to sport outside formal lessons.

The new plans establish a "sportsmark" for schools that are specially good at promoting sport. There will be a pounds 1m boost for school sports coaching. A further pounds 2m will be available for promoting links between schools and local clubs.

Under the plans, schools will not be expected to increase sport and games in compulsory lessons. But they will be required to publish details of sports provision in their prospectuses, along with sporting achievements through the year. School inspectors will examine the quality and range of games offered, and report on what schools provide above the National Curriculum minimum.

The Prime Minister also proposed action to halt the sale of school playing fields. More than 5,000 are estimated to have been sold since the Conservatives came to power in 1979. To try to halt further sales, Mr Major is considering plans to make the Sports Council a statutory consultant on planning proposals affecting playing fields.

Up to pounds 1m will be allocated to encourage schools to find private sector sponsors and a new working group established to advise on ways of increasing the numbers of sports scholarships in higher education.

Schools are to be encouraged and assisted to introduce children to competitive sport. At the same time, the British Sporting Academy, based on an Australian model, is intended to offer talented youngsters access to the best available coaching.

The aim, Mr Major said, was to improve training and "to bring every child in every school within reach of adequate sporting facilities by 2000".

Mr Major claimed the new initiative was the most important set of proposals ever published for the encouragement and promotion of sport. "Together, I want us to bring about a sea change in the prospects for British sport, from the very first steps in primary school right through to the breaking of the tape in an Olympic final, " he said.

He said the "announcement was not for the talented few but the many, children and adults, able-bodied and disabled. The revolution would begin in schools where from this autumn all children would be required to take compulsory games".

Similar proposals for Scotland were unveiled in Glasgow by Michael Forsyth, the Secretary of State for Scotland. Mr Forsyth said the 12-point plan would give a higher profile to school sport, improve links between schools and clubs, and result in more medals and awards being issued.

Chris Smith, Labour's National Heritage spokesman, welcomed the proposals but asked: "How can they call for schools to devote more time to sport, and to competitive games in particular, when at the same time they are cutting staff numbers and funding?"

The initiative, launched in conjunction with Virginia Bottomley, the Secretary of State for National Heritage Heritage, and Gillian Shephard, Secretary of State for Education and Employment, received the support of many sports personalities, including the athlete Kriss Akabusi, Sir Bobby Charlton and the England rugby player Rory Underwood.

Mr Underwood said sport gave children confidence and taught them self- confidence and motivation. "So many children lack self-confidence and self-esteem and I'd like to think that sport will give them that."

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