Bitterness and anger as end of term arrives for 10-year-long school sports partnership

BITTER: Matt Wainwright.
BITTER: Matt Wainwright.

A SCHEME involving 69 Rotherham schools – that has pitched thousands of kids off their sofas and into sport, over 10 years – will fold in August.

The Rawmarsh School Sports Partnership (RSSP) fuelled sports activities and tournaments across Rotherham.

It brought Strictly Come Dancing stars to the area, along with sports stars such as World Champion gymnast Beth Tweddle, who inspired kids last week at Wath’s St Pius’ Catholic High School.

It also won awards and was credited with improving the health and lifestyles of scores of youngsters, by providing the right opportunities.

But this week core RSSP staff received redundancy notices, after being told that the Government will pull their funding and that there is no future hope.

Main man Matt Wainwright was one of them. He now plans to move back to mainstream teaching.

Matt, who joined the Partnership seven years ago, told the Times: “I was gutted – very frustrated and angry that after all the work and success of the Partnership, it could just be pulled apart.

“We feared the worst after the initial Government spending review, but it appeared earlier this year the Government had done a u-turn and there might be a reprieve – it wasn’t to be.

“Physical education is not just about sport, it’s about health, and that’s the point that politicians seem to be missing.”

Matt has written letter after letter to Downing Street, he said. but to no avail.

“We would have liked at least to carry on up to the Olympics. There is to be some form of replacement for us but there will be no central organising body, and I fear schools’ stretched budgets won’t allow them to do nearly as much sport in the future.

“Partnerships across the country received £165m annually, which is peanuts in the grand scheme of things.”

Matt told how for 18 months he has struggled to keep up momentum and morale, supporting staff at risk of redundancy while encouraging schools to contribute to a central funding pot.

Rotherham Council was supportive – but not, he claimed, in a monetary sense.

In future, the Government will fund new positions of one games organiser per school for three days.

Matt said that at Rawmarsh, this will include a further two days, topped up initially by funds raised through the Partnership.

He added: “We raised participation in sport, physical and non-competitive activity massively.

“We also had a huge impact on staff’s professional development, training and resources.

“How matters progress from here will all depend on the strength of each learning community.

“Some will fare better than others.”