THOUSANDS of children across Huntingdonshire could find their access to sport restricted after £280,000 of annual funding was cut.

THOUSANDS of children across Huntingdonshire could find their access to sport restricted after £280,000 of annual funding was cut.

The Hunts School Sports Partnership has had its entire annual budget withdrawn, and now fears that school sports teams may be disbanded and after-school clubs cancelled.

The partnership, based at Hinchingbrooke School, estimates that it deals with more than 21,000 children across the district, and co-ordinates inter-school competitions, sports festivals, coaching days and leadership training courses.

It is one of four Cambridge partnerships that have lost a total of £1.2m of funding in cuts announced by education minister Michael Gove.

Sue Ager, partnership development manager, said the cuts would undo the progress made since the partnership was founded in 2006.

"These cuts will have a huge effect. It will mean the removal of the infrastructure that has been in place over the past four years, and fewer after-school clubs," she said.

"There will not be the variety of sports festivals that take place and enable all children and young people to take part in competitive sport. It's devastating.

"We work very closely with the schools, offering curriculum and after-school sport, and provide a clear link for the kids to get into sport outside of school and in their communities.

She added: "These cuts will mean a lot of lost opportunities for children."

Partnerships from across the country have expressed similar concerns, with many set to take part in a demonstration at Whitehall on Tuesday (December 7) where a petition against the cuts will be presented.

The Hunts School Sports Partnership is not participating in the petition or demonstration, but is examining ways in which it can continue to offer sports in its 68 schools across Huntingdonshire which, Mrs Ager believes, will have to bear the cost of the cuts.

"If we are able to continue to deliver high-quality sports coaching, then young people will have positive experiences of sport," she said.

"We are trying to work out at the moment how we can go forward and continue our clubs and events, but so much depends on the schools' budgets.

"With the cuts to funding and infrastructure we will have to rely on people's goodwill, and there's a limit to how much more work teachers can take on."

In the past four years, the partnership has increased the number of pupils doing two hours of PE a week from 65 per cent to 100 per cent.

Mrs Ager added: "Fifty per cent of young people are doing three hours or more, which means they are using after-school clubs, and others are involved in volunteering and leadership projects.

"We hear so much about the Big Society, but this is what we are already doing - we are helping to make active citizens."