Norwich school sports blow

The fitness of Norwich's children could suffer a big blow today, with the government poised to 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 high schools across England losing the status - including Thorpe St Andrew, Taverham High, Framingham Earl High, Cliff Park High in Gorleston and John Grant School in Caister.

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.

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.'

If confirmed, on the basis of �129 per pupil the cut could cost Taverham almost �150,000 per year, Framingham Earl �100,000, Cliff Park High �133,000 and John Grant School �15,000.

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 Department for Education would not comment ahead of today's announcements.