Schools and universities across the North East have been handed a funding boost of nearly £1m to improve the standard of sport in the region.
Northumbria University sport bosses have pledged to increase “university funding for participation and performance sport” on the back of a £329,000 Sport England grant.
The institute is one of 54 universities across the country - including a £163,260 grant to Sunderland University - which will share a £10m funding pot to get nearly 180,000 new students playing sport regularly.
And 15 primary schools across the region have also been dealt a funding boost of almost £500,000 to help them to improve their physical education, sport and activity facilities.
Colin Stromsoy, head of sport at Northumbria University, unveiled plans for an innovative “Club Northumbria” which he hopes will increase participation levels. He said: “From September we will offer students a wider programme of activities, with specialist coaching and competition at a range of levels, targeted at students of all standards and interests.
“It will encourage students to try new sports whilst at Northumbria and to develop skills in sports that they have already engaged in. The programme will also offer multi-sport activities for students at convenient locations, including the new Trinity Square accommodation, partner venues across the city and will include a new multi-sport programme for students with disabilities.”
Currently just 52% of higher education students take part in sport at least once a week. Sport England director of community sport, Mike Diaper, said: “We know universities play a vital role in maintaining and growing a student’s love of sport. They can encourage them to continue playing once they’ve left school or help those less sporty discover a new sport. By investing in the 54 universities we’re helping students develop a lifelong sporting habit while they study.”
Meanwhile 15 schools in the region have been awarded between £26,500 and £30,000 from Sport England to create multi-sport activity areas, activity surfaces, sport enclosures, ball hoops and running tracks.
It’s hoped it will give pupils more opportunities than ever to take part in sport and outdoor activities. The schools are among those with little or no outside space which can be currently used for PE or sport.
Ian Simon, executive director of Tyne & Wear Sport, said: “This is excellent news for the schools in our area. We have been working with many schools to help them to obtain the maximum value from the additional funding and support that has been made available to them. It is great to see that those schools with limited outside space for sport will soon be able to give their young pupils an even better first experience of PE and sport in school.”
The funding is part of the national £18 million Primary Spaces Facilities National Lottery Fund which has been distributed to 601 schools across England.
Beverly McCallion, deputy head teacher at Bede Community Primary School in Gateshead, one of the schools that received support from Tyne & Wear Sport, said: “We have just received news that we are being offered a substantial Primary Spaces Award from Sport England.
“This means that we can now expand and enhance our sports provision in ways that we thought wouldn’t happen for years. This will not only benefit our school greatly, but the whole community. It is amazing news. Tyne & Wear Sport were so helpful in advising us as we wrote our bid and I’m sure we have them to thank for much of this success.”
Sebastian Coe, the Prime Minister’s Olympic and Paralympic Legacy Ambassador, said: “A positive first experience of PE and sport at primary school is crucial to encouraging young people to be active throughout their lives, but for those schools with little or no outside space this can be extremely challenging to deliver.
“This funding will provide better outdoor multi-activity play areas at schools across the country that can be used both within the curriculum and outside school hours by local communities. I am convinced this will boost the opportunities for young people to be physically active.”