Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Importance of Community Sport in Wales - by Laura McAllister

It's 100 days to go until London 2012 and Sport Wales today embarks on a series of blogs about Community Sport. Professor Laura McAllister is Chair of Sport Wales...

Prof Laura McAllister

Of course, it wasn’t just the technical strength of the bid itself that led to our hosting of the Games, it was largely down to the commitment to maximise the power of the Games to inspire the youth of the world to re-engage with sport.
It’s what is known as the 'Singapore Promise' and I can assure you that inspiring and engaging the young people of Wales is at the very forefront of my mind and those of my colleagues at Sport Wales.
So it is fitting that, 100 days out from the Games, we’re unveiling ta further investment of £9million National Lottery funding into community sport over the next three years. In total, this means that Sport Wales will now be injecting a total of almost £32m a year into community sport in Wales.
It will provide a much-needed boost to the Community Strategy for sport, also launched today. The strategy is designed to challenge the sports sector to up the ante in increasing the number of people across the nation playing sport; to fulfil our ambition of getting every child in Wales, without exception, hooked on sport for life. And I don’t make that statement lightly.

The strategy sets out clear priorities to enable a dramatic shift in the range and number of people involved in local sport.  It’s about developing much wider offers, both formal and recreational, which are capable of appealing to a greater variety of children, young people and adults. Sport needs to keep adapting to be fresh and appealing.  Sport needs to fit into today’s busy lifestyles. At Sport Wales, we will be incentivizing new and innovative approaches. We cannot have more of the same. The same approaches will produce the same results. But we want to make a big difference.
We know that there are pockets of good work happening across Wales already of course. But good work needs to become the norm everywhere. And we need to ensure that those groups that may have less opportunity to take part are not excluded. We simply cannot be complacent and we need everybody in the sector to raise their game.
Sport Wales has today spelt out that it will be far more targeted with resources and incentivize and invest in:
             partners that have ambition to deliver more opportunities for more children and young people, particularly those hard to reach groups where we need to see higher participation rates. Recognising that every child has a right to the opportunity to play sport;
             sports that are prepared to introduce shorter, informal, social  versions of traditional sports to respond to the growing time pressures that people face
             sports clubs that are thriving hubs of activity, looking to broaden and boost the numbers of people taking part
             partners who can give children a broad range of general sport skills so that they have the confidence and ability to play a number of sports
             partners who can build effective partnerships, particularly with schools as the connections between schools and community activity needs to be much stronger;
             partners who are market-led, seeking and listening to local views, and using this to shape local delivery;
             partners who can help us double the number of coaches and volunteers in Wales to an all-time high of nearly 250,000 by 2016.
We cannot underestimate the education agenda – it is absolutely crucial if Wales is to witness a significant increase in the numbers of young people playing sport. Schools play a fundamental role in developing and sustaining a child’s love of sport.

We need to see every child accessing two hours of high quality PE every week. This needs to be supported by at least three hours of extracurricular or community sport.
The most important factor in all of this is that of the headteacher. Those that embrace the importance of vibrant school sport and are passionate about it place sport high on the agenda. They ensure that opportunities, designed by the pupils that meet their needs, are provided and that they link with the community and local clubs.
In some cases, time allocated to physical education within Initial Teacher Education and Training for primary school teachers is minimal.
The lack of training means that often our primary school teachers are not confident and, if they don’t have a passion for sport, where does that leave our children at a crucial time in their physical development?  Sport Wales is a firm believer that greater priority should be given to the training of teachers in this area so that they are upskilled and confident in the delivery of physical education. 
We also recognise the need to further maximise the available expertise and resources of FE and HE institutions, to continue the development of sporting opportunities beyond the school environment. If we can achieve this across the board in Wales, it would make a serious impact on our aspiration to get every child in Wales hooked on sport for life.
So while we take this day to look forward to London 2012, the winners and the stories of triumph, we all need to consider how we can make the biggest difference, using the power of the Games and those to come, to get every child hooked on sport for life.
You can follow Laura McAllister on Twitter @LauraMcAllister

This blog was written in conjunction with the launch of a strategy for Community Sport in Wales.  If you’d like your say, get involved in the debate on twitter – using the hashtag #communitysport and you can mention us @sport_wales