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EDITIONS
 Monday, 16 December, 2002, 11:32 GMT
Playing fields record defended
Sports day
Schools are losing the race to protect sport, says charity
There has been no increase in the sales of school sports fields, says the government.

A playing fields charity had claimed that school sports is being put at risk from the continued sale of sports pitches to developers.

But a response from the Department for Education says that in the past four years there have only been 115 major sales of schools playing fields.

And it says that larger figures for sell-offs could include "a strip of concrete behind a bike shed or a slope of more than 90 degrees".

The National Playing Fields Association has said that there is no sign that sell-offs have reduced.

And that losing school playing fields will have long-term consequences for the health of young people.

"I wish I could say that the selling off has stopped, but it hasn't," says the charity's director, Elsa Davies.

And she says that the government is not doing enough to block the loss of sports grounds.

Sell-off

Schools are still being allowed to sell land to relieve pressure on budgets, she says.

"It's not good enough that if a school wants a new information technology suite that they can sell off the playing fields to pay for it," she says.

"It will mean more of the green spaces being filled in and schools will have a minimum of space for sport and playing.

"We hear about the need to stay healthy and to keep fit, but where are people meant to exercise?"

Ms Davies says that the government needs to apply more stringent rules to anyone seeking to change the use of school playing grounds.

But the government has responded by publishing figures showing that the number of approvals to sell or lease school sports pitches has fallen from 37 in 1999 to 22 in the year ending March 2002.

Football pitches

" We are investing huge amounts of money to support sport in schools," said a Department for Education spokesperson.

"Since 1998 schools can only sell or lease playing field land if it is genuinely surplus to school and community sports needs.

"All proceeds from any playing field sales must be returned to improving sports and education facilities."

Among the examples of how funds from land sales or leases can be applied, the government cites St Peter's Collegiate School, Wolverhampton.

"This school had an awful lot of good quality sports land so the school leased land to Wolverhampton Wanderers FC who were looking for more grounds.

"The school has gained a first-class sports arena, the size of five badminton courts, and has four full size cricket nets, volleyball and disabled basketball."

See also:

24 May 00 | Education
08 Jun 99 | Education
06 Jan 00 | Education
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