Buckinghamshire – the changing organisational and school sports centre scene

Based on a submission from Professor Peter Thomas MBE, former Senior Education Officer and Head of Arts, Sport & Recreation, Buckinghamshire County Council

Buckinghamshire, including Milton Keynes, also sought to make the best use of school facilities. As a consequence of the many changes in the structure of Local Government in 1974, a significant and perhaps unusual change was made to the structure and responsibilities of the Sub – Committees of the Education Service in Buckinghamshire. Embraced in these new innovations was the creation of a new Sub-Committee entitled Youth & Community. This new Committee brought together for the first time, a wide range of responsibilities which had hitherto been spread across many different committees. This new Committee was described as the body with a major concern for ‘informal education’. Its wide brief included the joint provision of Community facilities in conjunction with District Councils and other bodies; and the development and encouragement of the community’s use of school buildings.

It was envisaged that the new look County Council’s non vocational Adult Education provision would make a significant contribution to social and recreational life, as well as meeting the needs of the new breed of students which it hoped to attract. The Youth Service was seen as a very important part of this new structure with the skills and expertise which were readily available in youth groups and organisations. This new service could only be really effective, if all those involved in this work worked together in a spirit of true partnership for the community.

In 1977, the work of the County Council involved the development of joint provision sports halls at four secondary schools in partnership with Aylesbury Vale District Council. The unusual aspect of those schemes was that they were managed by the Youth & Community Service and not by the local Recreation Departments. Each school campus had a Centre committee, and they were responsible for all aspects of the community use of the campus. The responsible person on each site was the post holder for community education – these posts varied from Director of Recreational Studies & Community Activities to Deputy Head (Community) or Head of Youth and Community. A County Youth and Community Officer, who was also a member of the Association of Recreation Managers, had overall advisory responsibility on behalf of the County Council.

The responsibilities for the management of the Joint Provision projects in the county varied from District to District, and sometimes, for example in Milton Keynes (see details), they even varied from project to project. Stantonbury Leisure Centre in Milton Keynes BC, was managed by Milton Keynes with the school, whilst Woughton Centre, also located in Milton Keynes on a secondary school site, was managed by Milton Keynes BC in conjunction with the Youth and Community Service. However, Chalfont Leisure Centre in Chiltern, whilst also located on a secondary school site, was managed by the District Council.

The relationship between sport in schools and the Youth Service, and in particular why young people drop out of sport, was an ever-increasing challenge at that time. Indeed, the topic was the subject of the National Playing Fields Association National Conference for Local Authorities in 1978 – ‘The Focus on Buckinghamshire’. The conference highlighted the important relationship between education authorities and recreation departments and investment in people as well as facilities.

The 1994 publication by the Southern Council for Sport and Recreation – ‘A Regional Strategy: 1994 to 1999’ and entitled ‘Sporting Futures’, emphasised the need for facility provision for sport. The report also highlighted that, in 1990, some 53% of the Region’s facilities are based on education sites, with Buckinghamshire having a particularly high proportion (69%), with 16 Leisure Centres 11 at Education Establishments.


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