The Federal Government’s $200 million program, Sporting Schools, celebrated its third birthday in July with a record-high number of funding applications.
Labelled Australia’s ‘biggest change to school sport in over a decade,’ the program has helped more than 3.4 million primary school students and 6500 schools enjoy a variety of sports since its launch in 2015.
National data shows the majority of Australian children are not meeting the daily physical activity guidelines, with 80 per cent failing to reach the recommended hour of physical activity every day.
Mount Dunned Regional Primary School’s physical education teacher James Ritchie says the program has been a gateway to getting students more active.
“Sporting Schools gives students the opportunity to participate in a wide range of sports that may not be accessible without funding. It also provides connections to sporting clubs and teams in the community for students to follow their interests,” he told Dscribe.
The program is designed to provide schools with high-quality sporting activities, increasing participation in sport and connecting children with community sporting opportunities – all while reducing the cost for parents.
Sporting Schools gives children the oppertunity to be active through a variety of sports either before, during or after school hours.
Increased school participation in sport has been found to be important for both health and student academic performance. High-performing schools are said to utilise school sport and physical education programs to help motivate and support students in their academic work.
Research suggests that children are able to spend less time on academic learning and more time being physically active during the school day – without affecting their academic success or progress.
Studies indicate that early positive connections to sport can encourage participation and a love of sport that lasts a lifespan.
Minister for Sport John Eren says sport and active recreation plays a vital role in children’s development beyond just having physical health benefits.
“Sport can provide a sense of belonging and connection to your local community. It can also develop and promote respect, responsibility and leadership among diverse population groups, which contributes to the development of strong, vibrant and healthy communities,” he told Dscribe.
Mr Ritchie says it’s important to focus on increasing children’s participation in sport for a range of reasons.
“Being involved in sports or sporting teams aids their progression physically, socially and emotionally. It is a unique way to challenge students to participate in activities that may be outside of their comfort zones,” he said.
The Australian Government has committed to an extension of the program in 2019, investing a further $230 million over the next five years.
Applications for term four grants closed late last month and are expected to provide more students with quality sporting opportunities.