Northern Ireland international manager Michael O’Neill and Down senior football Manager Paddy Tally today issued a joint call for the Department of Education to restore funding for the Curriculum Sports Programme.
The sporting legends highlighted the partnership that exists between the Irish FA and GAA on the programme and the vital service that the more than 50 coaches employed on the scheme provide for pupils, for schools and for broader society.
Half the children the coaches work with are girls and they teach pupils from P1-P4 fundamental movement skills as well as a life-long love of sport.
Michael O’Neill said: "I have seen at first-hand the brilliant work of the Curriculum Sports Programme and I, along with many people in Northern Ireland, am hugely disappointed that the funding has been cut. This is a vital programme for children in primary schools, delivered in partnership with the GAA and I would urge decision makers to reconsider, save the jobs and to restore the programme."
Paddy Tally said: "Surveys have shown that just 4% of children in the north of Ireland get the recommended number of PE hours per week and we know that there has been a sharp rise in obesity in schools. This programme helped promote the long-term benefits of exercise as well as improving the general health and wellbeing of children. Removing this funding will have a long-term detrimental effect on our primary school children and I would call on the Department to restore funding for the programme as soon as possible.’
The Irish FA and Ulster GAA will continue to fight for the continuation of this programme this year and in the 2019/20 financial year and will impress on key decision makers the positive benefits it has for pupils, teachers and schools.