Norfolk school sports blow
The fitness of Norfolk's children is set to suffer a big blow today, with speculation growing that the government will scrap specialist sports status for schools.
A leaked government memo suggests the announcement will come as part of the multi-billion pound comprehensive spending review cuts.
If confirmed, it would mean more than 400 schools across England losing the status – including nine in Norfolk, five in Suffolk and four in Cambridgeshire.
The speculation was greeted with dismay locally, with schools concerned about losing the �129 per pupil that the specialism brings and worried about the impact on youngsters' learning and fitness.
But Norfolk's county PE adviser said it could herald a 'level playing field' of sporting opportunities for all youngsters, with schools encouraged to 'work together' to enhance provision.
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Schools were encouraged to apply for specialist status under Labour, and went through a gruelling application process to win the accolade and the extra money that came with it.
Now Labour has revealed the apparent plans by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government to abolish the status, after details were leaked.
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Ian Clayton, headteacher at Thorpe St Andrew School, Laundry Lane, Thorpe St Andrew, near Norwich, said: 'We were one of the first specialist schools and one of the first to have two specialisms.
'Each specialism has a significant impact on raising standards in schools. It would be very disappointing to lose it. It is worth �190,000 a year to us.
'But it's not just about our school. One-third of the money has to be spent on outreach, and our youngsters work with neighbouring schools to help with their PE. We also work with teachers from other schools to help them to raise standards.'
Jill Waters, assistant headteacher at John Grant Complex Needs School at Caister, said: 'We are in the middle of our second year as a sports specialist, and the impact it has had on the children is amazing.
'It means they can access PE alongside their mainstream peers, it has social benefits and physically it benefits them enormously.
'We would be devastated to lose the status. It has meant an awful lot to our staff and pupils.'
Martin Radmore, Norfolk's senior county adviser for PE, said: 'The sports specialism makes a whole school impact and it does make a difference to the young people at that school.'
But he added: 'We have to look at how we can work smarter and efficiently. We can't have this massive investment forever. It's unsustainable.
'The current situation has created an un-level playing field, with some schools looking enviously at others because of the quality of their PE and sport offer. This could cause all schools to work together, and it could create new opportunities.'
The cuts are also expected to include:
?The scrapping of Labour's commitment to give a guaranteed five hours per week of PE and sport per pupil, dropping it back to the basic two hours.
?Withdrawal of government funding for the Youth Sport Trust.
?The end of Labour's sports strategy for young people.
?Cuts of almost �125m in funding of sport in schools.
Shadow sports minister Ian Austin said: 'Whilst British athletes were in Delhi last week winning medals for Britain and inspiring youngsters to take part in sport, David Cameron's coalition was drawing up plans to slash the support for the next generation of sporting stars.
'Mr Cameron might not value sport, but parents know it teaches kids crucial lessons about discipline, teamwork and how to compete in the right spirit, that hard work and training bring results.'
Other specialist schools, including those specialising in languages, maths, engineering or technology, are not believed to be affected.
The Department for Education would not comment on the speculation ahead of today's announcements.
The region's specialist schools include:
?Alderman Peel High, Wells
?Cliff Park High, Gorleston
?Framingham Earl High
?John Grant Complex Needs School, Caister
?King Edward VII School, King's Lynn
?Thorpe St Andrew School
?Copleston High, Ipswich
?Hartismere High, Eye
?King Edward VI Upper School, Bury St Edmunds
?Kirkley High, Lowestoft
?Westbourne Sports College, Ipswich
?Comberton Village College
?The Netherhall School
?Witchford Village College