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School Sports Facilities Beyond London 2012

With the Olympics’ success still fresh in the minds of kids, the enthusiasm for school sports couldn’t be greater. We look at how schools can develop their sports facilities to help the next generation of Olympians

Published in Sports Management 2013 issue 1
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School Sports Facilities
School Sports Facilities

School sports have been thrust into the spotlight as a result of the success of London 2012 and an announcement by Prime Minister David Cameron that competitive team sports within schools will be made compulsory for all primary school children.

These plans are to be included in a revised national curriculum, to be published in the Autumn, that will make it compulsory to take part in what Downing Street called “recognised and recognisable sports” such as football, hockey and netball. It will also prescribe “team outdoor and adventurous activity”.

The Olympics success is still fresh in the minds of schoolchildren and the enthusiasm for sports in general couldn’t be greater. Government statistics claim that 1.3 million more people are playing sport every week in England than when we won the bid in 2005. That is why it has put into place a ten-point plan to ensure that London 2012’s lasting legacy will be a commitment to ‘Inspire a Generation’.

The ten-point legacy plan includes:
* Investing £300m into world-class sports facilities that will support community and elite sport for future generations.
* A recognition that more needs to be done to ensure that all children have the chance to enjoy sport in school, to compete against peers and to celebrate sporting excellence.
* Reintroduction of the school games programme, which is a four level – intra-school, inter-school, county festivals and national finals – competition for school children.
* Investment of £50m in more than 700 community sports projects with a focus on making it easier for local community and volunteer groups to improve and refurbish sports clubs or transform no-sporting venues into modern grass roots sport facilities.

Finding Funding
The issue for many schools is that whilst competitive team sports are to be actively encouraged there are yet no details on how this will be supported or funded by the Government and there are no plans in place for secondary schools.

So, with budgets so tight, how can a school provide sport facilities for the next generation of Olympians? Firstly, they can look at new, shared facilities with the community as seen at Winchcombe School in Cheltenham. Here the school worked with community groups to get joint funding for a synthetic turf pitch that is used by the school, the local community and local sports clubs. The Government’s Places People Play programme has specifically earmarked funds for such shared facilities.

Karen Woolland of wctd, an expert on sports project funding says: “In order to make your project a reality it is advisable to move away from the thinking of a traditional project of synthetic pitch and changing rooms for one main user group, the key is to work in partnership and link with as many community partners as viable. This partnership approach will help reduce running costs for core services, increase sustainability and profitability and will allow each partner to identify an achievable funding target to bring to the project.”

Make Do and Mend
An alternative option is upgrade the facilities already in place – resurface or rejuvenate sports surfaces, add new fencing, replace the lighting or upgrade sports equipment such as goals and nets. Darren Wood of indoor flooring specialist Gerflor is shocked at the quality of school sports facilities: “With the majority of education stock pre-dating the 1980s, many facilities are looking tired and dated. Many sports halls have old traditional type floors in situ; hard surfaces that are uncomfortable to run on and painful to fall or dive on, especially for children.

“It is universally accepted that playing sport on hard, solid floors can lead to a higher risk of injury for players. These injuries usually manifest themselves as foot, knee, hip and back problems. It is also acknowledged that if a player sustains a major injury early on in their sporting life, then more set backs will quickly follow.”

For those wanting to get more information on developing school sports facilities, visit the Technical Guidance section of the SAPCA website. It includes information sheets and copies of recent presentations including: Funding Sources for Sports Facilities; Cost-Effective Upgrading of Sports Facilities; Performance Specifications for Sports Surfaces; Understanding Indoor Surfaces; and Safety Standards for Sports Equipment.

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