Prime Minister David Cameron today announced a rethink of controversial government plans to cut funding for school sports.
He told the House of Commons that the government was looking again at the decision and were talking to headteachers to come up with a workable solution.
The news comes after objections from Labour MPs, teachers and top athletes at plans to get rid of funding for Schools Sports Partnerships.
Over 70 athletes, including Olympic heptathlon champion Denise Lewis and world diving champion Tom Daley, wrote to the prime minister demanding a rethink of an “ill-conceived” policy to cut £162m of funding as part of the government’s comprehensive spending review.
The Youth Sport Trust had described as “devastating” the cuts to the Partnerships, which were designed to increase sporting opportunities for children.
Mr Cameron had claimed the system “simply did not work” and was mired in “red tape” but, following pressure from the public and sporting stars alike, he indicated a possible U-turn today.
Speaking at Prime Minister’s questions, Mr Cameron said: “We all want good sport in schools, we all want more competitive sport and we have all got to make sure that money is spent well.
“I think everyone accepts that not every penny was spent well in the past and there is quite a bureaucratic system. The culture, media and sport secretary and the education secretary are working hard on this.
“We are talking with headteachers so we can make sure that what we come up with actually works on the ground.
“I hope we will be able to make an announcement soon.”
Former Labour sports minister Andy Burnham, now shadow education secretary, welcomed a “huge change in tone” from the government, whose planned cuts he claimed had sparked a “remarkable grassroots revolt”.
“In the last 24 hours, we have heard a huge change in tone on this issue from both the prime minister and [education secretary] Michael Gove. It seems they now admit that they got it wrong and that School Sports Partnerships have been a success.”
“This apparent change of heart is welcome and will give a glimmer of hope to the thousands of young people, head teachers and athletes who have called on the government to reverse their decision to scrap School Sports Partnerships.”
The news will be welcomed by stars of sport across the UK, most notably Gail Emms, badminton silver medallist in 2004 and the brainchild behind the letter to the Prime Minister.
Emms said she felt “compelled” to write and campaign about the spending cuts, having got “angry and annoyed that sport and its legacy are in jeopardy”.
The letter stated: “With one ill-conceived cut you are on the brink of destroying everything schools, clubs and the national governing bodies of sport are doing to ensure this and future generations embrace sport and physical activity, not shun it.”