What will be the sport premium’s legacy?

Written by: HTU | Published:

Primary schools are diligently making use of their primary sport premium, but will this pump-priming see any long-term benefit, or is it another flash in the political pan?

School Sports Partnerships (SSPs) are tailing off. The NASUWT reports that in July 2012, 48 per cent of local authorities recorded a decline in the number of SSPs and a further 28 per cent had no functioning SSP within their area at all. 

Short-term funding and lack of planned sustainability meant that much of the expertise and the links built-up while the SSPs were financially supported was lost when the money stopped. Is the primary sport premium similarly doomed?

The launch of the primary sport premium was largely met with support in March 2013, when the government announced: 

  • A ring-fenced, lump sum for schools – a typical primary school with 250 pupils receiving £9,250 a year.
  • A greater role for sporting and voluntary organisations with an increase in specialist coaching and skills development. 
  • Tougher assessment of sport provision by Ofsted with schools held to account for how they spend the money.
  • Sport England investing £1.5 million a year of Lottery funding to help schools link-up with local sports coaches, clubs and sports governing bodies.
  • More primary teachers with a particular specialism in PE via a new teacher training scheme.

Short-term funding

However, concerns have been raised by sports associations, professionals and the Education Select Committee surrounding the short-term nature of the new funding. Furthermore, during a House of Commons debate in July, the benefits of SSPs were noted and many gave evidence to support the work they did and bemoan the links and expertise that have been lost.

Even Ofsted, in its Beyond 2012 report, recognised that “the impact of SSPs in maximising participation and increasing regular competition was clearly evident in the vast majority of schools visited”.

For some, the removal of funding from one sports scheme to replace it with another seems more like a political marking of territory than a carefully thought-out sports strategy for the future.

The Education Select Committee pointed out: “School sport is too important to rely on occasional efforts at pump-priming; the government must commit to a long-term vision for school sport accompanied by long-term funding.”

It suggested that there is insufficient encouragement for schools to consider the longer term impact of the way that money is spent and recommended that the best long-term use of the primary sport premium may well be through investment in high-quality training of staff.

Spending the money? 

Headteacher Update looked at a selection of schools’ Ofsted reports and what they said about primary sport premium spending. The comments could be categorised into schools that:

  • Had identified priorities and strategies were already in place. 
  • Had planning in place but had not yet implemented it.
  • Were yet to review their priorities. 
  • Had not yet received the funding and planning was anticipatory.

Where the funding was already in use, inspectors suggested that it was too early to judge the impact but acknowledged where staff knew how they would evaluate it. 

The Ofsted reports itemised a number of ways in which schools were spending the money:

  • Employing qualified sports coaches.
  • Providing training for staff.
  • Employing specialist PE teachers.
  • Extra games sessions at lunchtime or after-school clubs.
  • Additional PE equipment.
  • Buying into local sports partnerships.
  • Providing additional swimming opportunities. 

Employing qualified sports coaches and providing training opportunities for staff were by far the most frequently mentioned ways of spending the money. It would seem from this and our case study (see right) that many schools are taking the initiative themselves to ensure there is long-term benefit. 

No more politics 

The Education Select Committee advised: “We are concerned that the timeframe of the primary sport premium is not sufficient to allow a long-term provision to be built. It risks replicating previous short-term fixes rather than creating a long-term solution.” 

Let’s hope that the initiatives and good practice being developed by schools themselves are sufficient to counteract the politically driven decision-making they are faced with. 

What Ofsted is looking for

A paragraph in inspectors’ subsidiary guidance provides a useful list of factors that they will be looking for when considering the impact of the new primary school sport funding. They include: 

  • The increase in participation rates in such activities as games, dance, gymnastics, swimming and athletics.
  • The increase and success in competitive school sports.
  • How much more inclusive the physical education curriculum has become.
  • The growth in the range of provisional and alternative sporting activities. 
  • The improvement in partnership work on physical education with other schools and other local partners. 
  • Links with other subjects that contribute to pupils’ overall achievement and their greater social, spiritual, moral and cultural skills.

Case study – Field Junior School

The headteacher of Field Junior School in Hertfordshire, Julie Henley, describes how they have used the primary sport premium. 

"The first priority for us was to maintain and strengthen what we have. We are fortunate in having access to the swimming pool at a local secondary school – all children have weekly swimming for two terms in years 4, 5 and 6, which we value highly. Our priority has been ensuring training and qualification of our own staff in swimming instruction and subsidy of an awards programme for the children.

"We were involved in the SSP programme and this has been maintained and developed by another partner secondary school setting up a subscription arrangement.

"Funding for this was a key priority so that we could maintain a well-established set up and give opportunities for sports activities for all. It includes inter-school and intra-school events for all year groups throughout the year in a variety of sports. A strong and dedicated PE co-ordinator on the staff ensures that full access and engagement is achieved.

"There are also opportunities, through these events, for talented pupils to be identified and offered additional activities at local and county level. The partnership offers a range of staff training opportunities in PE through the year. 

"We have engaged sports coaches at lunchtimes, from a local after-school provider, to run active and positive playtimes. This gives each year group opportunity every week to take part in sporting activities for fun. Our school has a long tradition of extra-curricular activity and all teaching staff volunteer their time to run a lunchtime/after-school club – this includes sports activities such as netball, football and tag rugby. 

"In using our funding, it is vital that it is sustainable, as funding streams are rarely long-term. Giving out free access to clubs via private providers to large numbers of children can cause issues when trying to maintain the activities after the money has gone.

  • Suzanne O’Connell is an education writer and former primary school headteacher.

Further information


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