Using Grant Funding To Support School Sport

Photo: The Department for Culture, Media & Sport
Photo: The Department for Culture, Media & Sport

It’s an interesting time for School Sport and the funding of it with much being made of the recent announcement of additional funding for Primary Schools. Since the cut in government funding of School Sport Partnerships in 2011 there has been a fairly mixed provision for PE and School Sport across the country with many schools reducing their sport offer and others continuing to receive support from SSPs who have accessed alternative income.

Seeing the importance of School Sport a large number of schools have turned to innovative methods of ensuring an appropriate offer which have included joining with local schools to buy in services, forging partnerships with local sports clubs and utilising grant sources.

Photo: The Department for Culture, Media & Sport
Photo: The Department for Culture, Media & Sport

The offer of mainstream funding for PE and School Sport certainly should only be seen as a good thing but let’s hope schools make the most of this “average of £9,250 a year” by continuing their innovative thinking and maximising their offer to pupils and not just settling for their lump sum from government.

A great way to extend the resources available to schools is to make use of the grant funding opportunities that are available and we hope to dispel the myth that there are very few opportunities for grant funds for Schools. While we are at it lets also disagree with the common argument of “we aren’t the right type of school to get grant funding”, the most important factor when a decision on most grant applications are made is how strong is the project and how positive and realistic are the outcomes, not how ‘urban’, ‘deprived’ or ‘multicultural’ is the area where the project is based, therefore grant funds are there for every school in the country to try and access.

Photo: The Department for Culture, Media & Sport
Photo: The Department for Culture, Media & Sport

Below we have offered a list of grant sources for School Sport, with the majority interested in supporting activities that take during extra-curricular time and whilst the list really could go on and on it makes sense to be applying to the sources where you will have the greatest chance of success. Regularly schools that are new to grant fundraising decide against future attempts after one or two rejections and it is no coincidence that the most successful grant fundraisers are usually the ones with the thickest of skins so if you ultimately receive a rejection take the advice offered as part of the rejection, dust yourself off and try an alternative route or project.

County Sports Partnerships

The County Sport Partnerships are in the main an ideal starting point when looking for funding or support in accessing grants with CSPs usually holding the most up to date information on Sport England and NGB programmes. Each Partnership offers a slightly different level of support and direct grants so use the website of your local CSP, which can be found through the CSP Network, to keep up to date with opportunities but some of their regular programmes include the following.

Photo: Sportivate / Sport England
Photo: Sportivate / Sport England


The Sportivate scheme is a programme overseen by each CSP to support projects that deliver 6 weeks of sports activities targeted at young people aged 14-25 who are classed as inactive or semi-sporty. Projects are required to show how activities and participation will continue following the funded activities and it is advisable where possible that school applications show a link to local sports clubs providing opportunities to progress in the chosen sport.

Coach Bursary

Most CSP offer some variation of a Coach Bursary, which is a grant paid either to the school or directly to the individual to pay for the cost of NGB coach education courses. The CSP will also be able to advice you on bursaries that may be available through local Sports Councils or Local Authorities. A standard coach bursary will offer up to £500 per coach or a maximum of £1,000 per organisation and usually only contributing to part of the cost of the course, however there are examples of larger amounts available and some schemes offering costs related to activities delivered by the newly training coaches.

Sport England
Photo: Sport England

Sport England

A range of grant opportunities are available through Sport England including the programmes that form the People, Places, Play initiative however intermittently new programmes are available so it is advisable to regularly check the Sport England website to not miss out on up new opportunities that are available.
The most relevant opportunities that are for available for schools through Sport England are the following:

Small Grants Programme

The largest number of grants made by Sport England are made through its Small Grants scheme that offers grants to schools and not-for-profit organisations of £10,000. As with all Sport England funding priority is given to projects targeting young people aged 14+ that increase participation in sport, however examples of projects working with young people under 14 have been funded in the past if a strong legacy of participation can be shown.

Photo: Wakefield High School
Photo: Wakefield High School

Inspired Facilities

The Inspired Facilities programme has been a successful and innovative scheme developed as part of the People, Places, Play initiative. Grants are available for the development and renewal of sports facilities, with no revenue costs considered. Within this programme schools are able to apply for up to £150,000 but are required to have 50% match-funding for their development.

National Governing Bodies

With a wide variety of programmes ran by the National Governing Bodies of sport it is impossible and would be somewhat unhelpful to précis all of these, it is however advisable that if you are delivering activities in a specific sport on an ongoing basis that you explore affiliating with the relevant NGB at which point you can seek advice on the grant programmes that might be available to you. Details of the NGBs for each sport can be found on the Sport England website.

Big Lottery

The Big Lottery manages a range of grant programmes however the majority are difficult for schools to access as community groups and charities are prioritised. Check the Big Lottery website for more details on their entire grant programmes however it is the Awards for All programme that offers a good opportunity for schools.

Awards for All

Grants of up to £10,000 are available through the Awards for All grant programme that conversely to Sport England programmes will not fund programmes that are focussed on increasing sports participation. Projects that receive Awards for All funding need to how that they are delivering social outcomes to communities or individuals through the sports activities they offer and grants can be used to deliver activities or improve on-site facilities. Most costs associated to a project are eligible for funding however long-term salaries will not be funded.

Other Grant Making Charities

When applying for alternative sources it must be considered that success rates will be much lower however there are many other charities and trusts that consider supporting the development of school sports projects. A handful of these grant sources are as follows:

Children in Need

Following a recent re-launch Children in Need now offers both a Small Grants scheme, providing grants of up to £10,000 to be spent in a 12 month period, and a Large Grants programme, with grants of up to £100,000 over three years. Children in Need’s focus is supporting projects that work with children under the age of 19 who are disadvantaged therefore any application to Children in Need requires a strong argument of why the children they are working with are disadvantaged with disability, deprivation and rural isolation common areas supported. Schools applying for a grant are required to be working with the entire local community not just pupils from their school.

Community Foundations

Another organisation with a range of frequently changing grant programmes that should be on your radar is your local Community Foundation. Some Foundations will not consider grant applications from schools however it is worth a call or email to check what programmes they are currently distributing. You can find your appropriate Foundation through the Community Foundation Network.

Tesco Charity Trust Community Awards

Tesco Charity Trust provides grants through their Community Awards programme with up to £4,000 available for projects. The charity has a wide reaching criteria but as decisions are made by representatives of local stores it is difficult to identify priorities and most appropriate projects however application for school sport are regularly supported. Deadlines for schools are twice a year with the next deadline at the end of June.

Ernest Cook Trust

The Ernest Cook Trust offers grants of up to £4,000 that schools can apply for and whilst the charity does not promote applications for sports projects there is an opportunity for Primary schools in particular if they are able to link sports activities to the objectives of learning about the countryside, arts or improving numeracy and literacy.

Thomas Cook Children’s Charity

Schools are able to apply to the Thomas Cook Children’s Charity for projects that bring benefits to sick or disadvantaged children. The charity does not state a maximum grant size however the majority of grants given are below £5,000 and are able to support sports activities, equipment or facilities.

This post was contributed by John Ellery (@JohnEllery), a fundraising consultant for Ellery Consulting, who provide support to both grant-making charities and those seeking grants. For more information, please visit

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