Rugby balls and rain were on the agenda for Prime Minister David Cameron and Lord Sebastian Coe as they took part in a children’s training session on Saturday.
The two political heavyweights joined in with passing drills at Millwall Rugby Club in the Isle of Dogs as part of the government’s promotion of a recently announced £150m-a-year boost to primary school sports. The pair were joined by children from local schools Our Lady’s Catholic Primary School, St Edmund’s Catholic Primary School, St Luke’s Church of England Primary School and Cubitt Town Junior School.
Sophie Morris, Development Officer at Millwall Rugby Club said: “We were thrilled to host the Prime Minister and Lord Coe at our taster session for local primary school children. Many of the kids said that they’d like to come back, so last Saturday could be the start of something really special for the club.”
Onlooking camera crews witnessed Cameron and a squad of young players defeat Lord Coe in a ball-passing race, part of a sport-specific training package that will be more widely available throughout England thanks to the cash injection.
The government scheme means introducing ring-fenced funding for sport, which will be awarded directly to primary school heads and teachers. A spokesperson from 10 Downing Street said this will mean “a lump sum for each school, with a per-pupil top-up. A typical primary school with 250 primary aged pupils would receive £9,250 per year.”
The plan will run for the next two years, with Ofsted assessing how each school has spent their money.
Some observers, such as the Save School Sport Partnership, have criticised investing directly into sport-specific coaching, rather than focussing on physical literacy and the processes of educating children about health lifestyles and the basics of physical exercise.
Others, such as House of Lords crossbencher Baroness Sue Campbell have heralded the investment as a step in the right direction. After analysing the plan on its release, she said: “This is a landmark day for PE and school sport and now the work really begins to make sure this impressive investment benefits all young people.”
She also said that “if this funding is to reach every young person it is important to recognise that schools will need support in how to maximise its impact. Funding will need to be used in a way that makes high quality PE and sport sustainable”, while reiterating that “investment in teacher training at primary school level is desperately needed.”
The Labour Party has also conceded that the investment is a positive move; however, shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg suggested that this announcement masks greater issues within school sports.
“The Olympic legacy is still at risk,” the MP for Liverpool West Derby said. “The Government has got rid of the requirement that pupils get 2 hours of sport or PE a week, and they watered down the rules protecting playing fields.
“It is good that the Government are backing Labour’s plan to get Ofsted to inspect school sport, but they should go further and make sure children are getting a minimum amount of sport.”