SPORTS coaches and headteachers have hit out at plans to cut funding for sports across the county ahead of the Olympics.

Critics have reacted angrily to the government’s decision to push ahead with cuts to school sports budgets.

Although Education Secretary Michael Gove announced a partial reprieve on Schools Sports Partnerships, campaigners say that the cuts will have a calamitous effect on young people.

There is still uncertainly how much money will be available across Dorset.

Schools and sporting organisations in the county warned that 25 coaches and sporting staff who work across 65 primary, secondary and special needs schools in West Dorset face losing their jobs.

Their warning comes as ministers announced £65million funding to promote competitive sports in schools nationally over the coming three years after the Government was forced into a partial U-turn on its plan to axe the Schools Sports Partnership (SSP).

Education Secretary Michael Gove said a further £47million would be made available to allow the partnerships to continue up to the end of the academic year in summer 2011.

The £65million from the Department for Education's budget for the period to 2013/14 will then allow every secondary school to release one PE teacher for a day a week to 'embed' the benefits from the scheme into its sports provision, he said.

These teachers will aim to encourage greater take-up of competitive sport in primary schools and secure a fixture network for schools to increase the amount of competition within and between schools.

Dale Rhodes, partnership development manager for West Dorset SSP, warned that the U-turn was only a 'temporary reprieve.

She said the Government's original plans to axe the £162million set aside to teach sport in English state schools, including £1.4million for Dorset would have undone a decade's good work and made a mockery of creating a legacy from the 2012 home Games.

Speaking of her relief, Miss Rhodes said: “It's 50 per cent of a reverse of funding but only 50 per cent.

“But it's better than nothing.

“How long is this temporary reprieve going to last? We won't know what the breakdown of the money will be until January.

“It affects 12 staff, three competition managers and about 10 coaches.

“I'm just grateful that there has been a partial U-turn to save some of the good work that is going on.

“What it means for the area, I can't answer that really.”

Miss Rhodes who works with 65 West Dorset primary, secondary and special schools from her base at Weymouth's Wey Valley School and Sports College, said the funding cuts could have ‘a huge impact’ on competitive school sport, transition work between primary and secondary schools and professional development work for teachers as far as physical activities are concerned.

Under the latest announcement, lottery funding from Sport England will fund School Games competitions, leading to finals at the Olympic Stadium in spring 2012.

The Government will also revise the PE curriculum to give greater emphasis to competitive sports and headteachers will be given greater freedom in how they spend money on sport.

Headteacher Phil Thomas, for the Wey Valley hub school for the West Dorset sport partnership, said he was proud of Miss Rhodes’ nationally-recognised work in developing sporting capacity and leadership skills for young people and warned that ‘all our children’ would be the losers if cuts are made.

He blasted the previous sudden plans to axe the scheme and said he hoped the reprieve would enable ‘a strategic plan to be put in place for continued provision’.

Headteacher Sarah Sprague, of Beechcroft St Paul's Primary School in Westham, described the cuts as ‘short-sighted’ ahead of the 2012 Games.

She said: “The Olympics are all about the celebration of sports and physical education.

“All the schools have benefited tremendously from SSP in terms of how it's allowed us to enrich sports curriculum and through expert coaches coming in and working with children.

“It would have been tragic if all that sport funding was taken away, both for the children who have had access to expert sport staff and the staff who will lose self development opportunities.”