Schools' spending on PE 'shocking'

DOZENS of Suffolk schools spent less than £1 per pupil on PE equipment in the past two years - enough to buy each youngster a shuttlecock.An EADT investigation, the biggest ever carried out into the county's education spending, found an alarming lack of investment in sport by some headteachers.

DOZENS of Suffolk schools spent less than £1 per pupil on PE equipment in the past two years - enough to buy each youngster a shuttlecock.

An EADT investigation, the biggest ever carried out into the county's education spending, found an alarming lack of investment in sport by some headteachers.

Overall, an average of about £8.50 per pupil has been spent on PE equipment in the last year, compared to around £90 a head on computers and information technology.

Last night, Karen Pickering, sporting ambassador for Ipswich, described the level of investment as “shocking”, while an anti-obesity organisation described it as “outrageous”.


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Using the Freedom of Information Act, the EADT asked each school to reveal how much it spent on PE equipment between 2004 and 2006.

A total of 279 schools, attended by about 88,500 of the 100,000 pupils in Suffolk, responded, revealing major fluctuations in investment around the county.

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About a fifth of schools spent less than £1-a-head on PE kit last year and around 100 spent less than £2. Meanwhile, a small number invested the equivalent of more than £100-per-pupil.

Ms Pickering, a double Commonwealth gold medallist and Britain's most decorated female swimmer, said: “I find it really shocking that it's given such a low priority.

“I appreciate there's always a lack of funding but it's too important to spend as little amount of the budget on as that.

“Equipment is expensive but it's an investment - in pupils' health and their futures. It's not just a mat in a gym, spending on PE represents a whole lot more. It can make a huge difference to people's lives.”

Louise Diss, manager director The Obesity Awareness and Solutions Trust, said: “I'm horrified at the level of investment -I think it's outrageous.

“We need to remember that one place where you have a captive audience is children at school.

”It's the one chance you have to really make a difference and help youngsters get on track for a healthy life. It's much better to keep their weight under control by keeping them active than putting them on a diet.

”Sport is very much part of that. You don't necessarily need to have state of the art of the art equipment but if you haven't got the right kit, youngsters aren't going to be interested in sport.”

Although schools are funded through Suffolk County Council, decisions on where to invest the cash are made by individual headteachers.

A spokesman for the authority defended the county's investment in PE.

He said: "The vast majority of spending on sport and PE in school is, of course, absorbed within staff costs.

“However, schools do have funds to spend on equipment, transport and teachers' professional development. And from September this year, every child in the county will be able to take part in a 'schools sport partnership' for which additional central funding will be available over three years. Schools will be able to use this extra money for sporting activities of all kinds including equipment, training and competitions. It is certainly an exciting prospect for school sport in Suffolk."

A spokesman for the Department of Education and Skills said there had been shortage of cash for schools.

“Government investment of over £1.5 billion in school sport is already providing many more opportunities for children both in the curriculum and after school,” he said.

“Our aim is to ensure all school children take part in at least four hours of PE and sport by 2010.

“In particular, nearly £17m has been paid to the School Sport Partnerships in the East of England Region and Suffolk is also benefiting from the Big Lottery's New Opportunities Fund, which is investing over £581m in England in the provision of sporting facilities for young people.”

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