Funding cut for sports coaching in primary schools

GAA and soccer coaching in local primary schools were dealt a huge blow after the Department of Education announced that funding for specialist sports coaching will stop.
The school sports programme, which was delivered by coaches from the GAA and Irish Football Association (IFA), was run in more than 200 schools each year by 22 coaches in the North and cost about £500,000 a year.
The department told the sports bodies “no further funding is available” due to budget cuts.
Derek Sharpe, pictured below, has seen the benefits of the programme from both sides as he is a teacher at Shanmullagh Education Other Than At School (EOTAS) Centre in Ballycassidy and used to be an IFA physical literacy co-ordinator in the school sports programme for a number of years.
“It’s a terrific programme. It sets kids up for lifelong participation in sport, while improving their physical fitness, mental well-being and social skills,” Mr Sharpe said.
“If kids are doing sport as part of their school curriculum, they are more likely to join sports clubs outside of curriculum time. To lose out on it, especially in primary schools where many staff aren’t fully competent at taking PE, is terrible news.
“Obesity levels in children are also increasing. Kids are recommended to exercise for at least an hour a day and this will now be taken away from them in primary schools.
“It’ll have a massive effect on these children further down the line as they get older.”
Brian Treacy, principal of Holy Trinity Primary School in Enniskillen, believed that cutting funds for the school sports programme was another move that would affect the physical and emotional well-being of his pupils.
“It comes on top of a range of cuts in education. It’s one of those things that children so badly require for the provision of their physical and mental health,” Mr Treacy said.
“These programmes are seen as extra to the curriculum, but they are fundamental to the development of all children.
“The concern for us in education is that the harm it will do won’t be seen until five or ten years later. The impact this will have long-term on our children and our communities is very worrying.
“It’s getting more and more difficult to meet the needs of the children.”
Ulster GAA director Eugene Young said that ending the scheme “would be a significant loss to our children and schools”.

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