GAA coaching for schools wins funding extension

The Department of Education will fund GAA and soccer coaches in schools until October

A GAA coaching scheme for schoolchildren has won a funding extension - but for three months only.

There are concerns about the future of the Curriculum Sports Programme, which involves gaelic and soccer coaches visiting primary schools.

It has been running for a decade and thousands of children have taken part.

Ulster GAA provides 25 coaches, and the Irish FA 28, to work with about 450 schools a year. About £1.3 million is spent by the Department of Education annually.

There were fears that the programme could stop due to the absence of an agreed budget for 2017/18.

The department initially offered part funding until the end of July only. It also said it was cutting money for extended schools initiatives and school uniforms, but later confirmed that it was scrapping the proposed uniform cuts.

Sinn Féin said it remained concerned that the department intended to cut the sports grants.

The department has now said it is extending funding for three months.

"The Department of Education has finalised its funding decisions to enable the department to remain within its indicative budget whilst also minimising any impact on its core early years, youth and school services to children and young people," a spokeswoman said.

"Whilst the contract for the Curriculum Sports programme ends on the 31 July 2017, the department has recognised the contribution thus programme is making in schools and has agreed to fund it until 31 October 2017.

"This provides a three month extension to the current contract which will enable both the GAA and IFA to complete their current commitments and to make any necessary arrangements before funding ceases on 31 October 2017."

She added that while the department recognised the importance of extended schools, it could not continue to provide the existing level of funding without having to implement further reductions to core services.

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