Northern Ireland news

Ulster GAA ends involvement in school coaching programme

Ulster GAA had been involved in a coaching programme for schools since 2007

ULSTER GAA has ended its involvement in a coaching scheme for school children.

The Curriculum Sports Programme, which involves Gaelic and soccer coaches visiting primary schools, was halted after funding stopped.

It had been operating for more than a decade and thousands of children took part.

Money ran out in October, but the Department of Education said it might return next year.

Ulster GAA continued to fund its coaches until this week. However, as there remains no certainty government money will return the council said it was withdrawing.

Provincial Secretary Brian McAvoy said it was "a serious blow to staff, pupils and schools". It will also result in the loss of more than 20 jobs.

"It is bitterly disappointing to have to make staff redundant at this time but despite our best efforts to secure additional funding, Ulster GAA was left with no choice but to end our involvement," he said.

“The current staff and those who have worked on the CSP over the last 11 years have made a lasting imprint on the lives of many children in our schools. In that time approximately 40,000 children per year have benefited."

Mr McAvoy said a combination of reduced exchequer funding and the absence of an executive ended the programme.

He added that Ulster GAA and the Irish Football Association were continuing to engage with the Department of Education to see if a replacement could be put in place. They have put forward a joint proposal outlining possible options.

"These are being looked at while the department is also exploring with us potential opportunities for a new style programme in the next financial year. However, there is still no clarity on this," Mr McAvoy said.

"Had there been certainty beyond April 2019 I believe that it may have been possible to put in place a package with the association nationally that would have allowed the CSP to continue for a further period. Regrettably, in the absence of any firm commitments at this stage this option could not be progressed in a meaningful way."

Sinn Féin MLA Sinead Ennis said the cut would directly affect children.

"This programme teaches children the importance of living a healthy and active lifestyle while also increasing their confidence and social interaction skills," she said.

"Coupled with the financial crisis in our school, this cut is a direct result of over eight years of relentless Tory austerity budgets."

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