Colleges out in the cold

July 21, 1995

Huw Richards and David Charter report on sport in HE and Fe after John Major's announcement of a national review.

Further education colleges are complaining bitterly that the Government's sporting initiative all but overlooks them.

Former National Heritage secretary Stephen Dorrell sought views from senior sector representatives in April - but their two key recommendations are absent from the department's document, Our Sporting Future.

The further education experts told Mr Dorrell they wanted National Lottery funds to rebuild colleges' sporting provision. They also said they would support an initiative to restore Wednesday afternoons as sacrosanct for sports activity.

Instead it is proposed that college students "may wish to consider volunteering their skills to support sports initiatives in local schools" and that the charters for further and higher education will be amended to "ensure high standards of service" in sports facilities and opportunities. No special lottery deals are being offered.

"The hopes raised in discussions with the department have not been realised," said Ruth Gee, of the Association for Colleges. "We had hoped for earmarked lottery money for sport in further and higher education. It was clearly discussed and it seems to have gone by the board," she said.

"We are not happy just being an adjunct to something else that is going on. Frankly they seem to have given up on the whole idea of promoting sport in further education."

Howard Clark, chairman of the Association of Sixth Form Colleges (APVIC), said: "There is very little mention of the further education sector given the importance the Government seems to be attaching to the initiative. It seems to be more of an after-thought. Capital investment is required for sports halls and pitches. It is not enough just to have a playing field these days."

He added: "There is a considerable opportunity here to use colleges as an important vehicle for improving public access to sports. But this is not as strong a document as I would have hoped for."

The Further Education Funding Council is being called on to audit sports provision with recommendations for action, as well as to report the situation annually and require colleges to publish details of their sports facilities.

It is analysing returns of a questionnaire sent to colleges last month. Chief inspector Terry Melia said initial results showed sporting activity was greater than expected.

"Provision is richer than most people imagined. For example, there is a lot of involvement in local, regional and national competitions," he said.

The questionnaire asks which sports-related courses are offered and how many students follow them, as well as college links with outside sports bodies and voluntary activity. It also covers students' achievements, how sports are managed and quality assessed, as well as the level of staffing and equipment. A detailed analysis will not be ready until the New Year.

Mr Melia added that college reports were unlikely to grow to carry extra sport information: "We don't want to clog them up with every little bit of detail. It is already part of the wider curriculum enrichment activities."

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