‘Major blow’ to primary schools

Children pictured at the Beltoy Playing Fields, Carrickfergus, Hughes Insurance Irish FA'Summer Football Camp. Over 200 camps will be delivered, supporting 17,000 children aged between five and 13. ''Hughes Insurance is proud to be sponsoring grassroots football across Northern Ireland.''Picture by William Cherry/PressEye.com
Children pictured at the Beltoy Playing Fields, Carrickfergus, Hughes Insurance Irish FA'Summer Football Camp. Over 200 camps will be delivered, supporting 17,000 children aged between five and 13. ''Hughes Insurance is proud to be sponsoring grassroots football across Northern Ireland.''Picture by William Cherry/PressEye.com

The closure of the Curriculum Sports Programme (CSP) has been described as a ‘bitter blow for primary schools’.

The programme had been delivered during the last 11 years by the GAA and IFA.

“Last Friday 23 GAA coaches, males and females, lost their jobs in the mouth of Christmas. Some are married, with young families and mortgages,” said SDLP Mid Ulster councillor Martin Kearney. “This is a bitter blow for primary schools across the North, big schools and small schools, and particularly those schools with limited resources, who depended so much on these qualified coaches.”

The Carntogher representative described the sports programme as a tremendous facility that was greatly appreciated by schools, which are experiencing similar cutbacks on a daily basis.

“Established in 2007 this Scheme is targeted at the youngest of pupils, Key Stage One (5 to 8 year olds), delivering the fundamental skills of games as well as athletics, dance and gymnastics etc,” he continued.

“During 2018 they managed to reach out to 346 schools and over 18,000 pupils.

“Although funding from the Department of Education ceased in October Ulster GAA managed to fund the CSP from its own resources until now. School principals, realising the worth of such a programme, have been trying to source funding for its continuation as well, lobbying for funding from the Sugar Levy Fund, which is targeting obesity and diabetes.

“Although attempts are underway by both the GAA and IFA by way of a joint proposal for the future of the programme it is sad to report once again that both the absence of funding and a working Executive have terminated something so special.”

Ulster GAA Provincial Secretary Brian McAvoy said it was a serious blow to staff, pupils and schools.

“It is bitterly disappointing to have to make staff redundant at this time but despite our best efforts to secure additional funding,” he said.