SSP keeping sport 'on the agenda' despite cuts

SSP keeping sport 'on the agenda' despite cuts

James Preston

SSP keeping sport 'on the agenda' despite cuts

A key player in Ascot and Maidenhead's School Sports Partnership (SSP) programme has highlighted the vital role it plays as the initiative faces an uncertain future.

Emma Fitzgerald


Emma Fitzgerald, who has been involved in the Ascot & Maidenhead SSP since 2007, said organisers have had to become 'extremely creative' to maintain the service they offer to schools in the light of Government cuts.

But she said the programme continues to ensure 'sport stays on the agenda', putting on a wealth of events ranging from indoor athletics tournaments to an annual dance festival which involves more than 800 children.

The partnership was formed as part of a national initiative under the previous Labour Government to encourage schools to work together to create sporting opportunities for youngsters.

Partnership development manager Emma is tasked with seeking out new opportunities for the SSP and working in the community to help ensure the partnership keeps producing a varied programme of events.

"No day is ever the same," said the 42-year-old.

"I'm out and about an awful lot and there's a lot of communication within schools in our partnership."

Emma operates out of an office based at Desborough College, in Shoppenhangers Lane, but the partnership encompasses more than 30 schools across Ascot and Maidenhead.

Participation events are focused on primary schools, but the SSP relies on secondary schools to provide venues, staff and pupils to organise and act as official for competitions.

The support became especially important when Government cuts were announced in 2010, dramatically slashing the SSP funding.

"There's been an awful lot of good will from the secondary schools involved," said Emma, who lives in Larchfield.

"They see the importance of still delivering these primary school competitions and they understand the role and the contributions they make."

Emma, who has a sport and recreation degree from Staffordshire University and has been involved in sport throughout her working life, described news of the cuts as a 'shock' and estimated it left the SSP with a tenth of the funding it would normally receive.

She admitted the partnership can only operate on a 'year-on-year basis' but said it has continued to thrive where other programmes have failed.

It continues to be involved in the Sainsbury's School Games, a series of competitive events operating from local to national levels, and in 2012 organised its very own torch relay to mark the Olympic Games in London.

"The best thing I have done in my working life is our school torch relay," said Emma.

"I found the whole thing quite emotional."

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