The Curriculum Sports Programme which provides almost 50 coaches to our schools from the IFA and Ulster GAA has been a hugely successful and worldwide acclaimed physical activity intervention aimed at the Key Stage 1 grade. This programme has a positive impact on the physical well-being of over 35,000 young people per year and provides an avenue into sports club participation and lifelong involvement in sport and physical activity.
Research conducted in 2012 found that the estimated annual cost of dealing with obesity in Northern Ireland is £370m a year with a 5% increase in obesity in adults from 1997 with six in 10 adults and a quarter of children are overweight and obese. Chest Heart and Stroke recommends that, by 2021, 70% of primary-school pupils should be able to access at least two hours of high-quality PE each week however recent research outlined in the NI Assembly highlighted that only 4% of primary pupils are accessing that recommendation. NI Sports Forum believes that the financial investment in this programme and future impacts would save the Northern Ireland Executive substantial future outlays in fighting obesity, diabetes, inactivity and makes the case that surely prevention is better than the cure?
Richard Johnson, NI Sports Forum Chairperson stated, “We are thoroughly disappointed to hear that the funding for the Curriculum Schools Programme from the Department for Education will not continue into 2019 and beyond. The draft Programme for Government outlines greater levels of collaboration between governmental departments however there is a significant concern that the rationale for making decisions for these areas has shown the independent and insular approach rather than a holistic nature of the impacts across health, education, sport, recreation, community and social cohesion. Without an Executive at Stormont, we have had a lack of appropriate decision making and accountability on activities and events such as the Belfast 2021 Commonwealth Youth Games, Outdoor Education Centre Closures, the Road Closures Order and NI Sports Forum is alarmingly concerned about the impact the lack of an Executive is having on the sporting sector as the months dwindle by.”