Marathon gives £150,000 grant to new sports school for netball

Three schemes in Croydon have between them received nearly £200,000 in grants from the London Marathon’s charitable trust, it was announced today.

The London Marathon has raised millions for good, and not-so-good, causes

The Socco Cheta Community Hub in South Norwood (£18,500) and Wheels For Wellbeing, which operates across several sites, including Croydon Arena (£20,000), both received funds to help buy equipment or create facilities to assist in their activities, though by far the biggest chunk of cash – £150,000 – has gone to the Coombe Wood selective school in South Croydon, to build a couple of floodlit netball courts on the site of what was once… Green Belt playing fields.

The London Marathon Charitable Trust has awarded more than £89million to sports-related schemes in the London area since it was established in 1981 as part of the founding principles of the annual race.

It makes a major contribution to around £1billion of grant aid that is available to sporting causes in this country each year, although Croydon Council has been notoriously poor at tapping into those funds, or assisting community groups to do so. Which makes today’s triple announcement exceptional.

“Many of the facilities awarded funding in this latest round of grants provide opportunities to participate in outdoor activities, which are of heightened relevance given the impact the current Covid-19 pandemic is having on physical activity provision,” the Trust said in making the announcement.

The £30m school nears completion opposite Lloyd Park: did it really not already include netball courts?

Sir Rodney Walker, Chairman of The Trust, said: “The Trust has a vision of a society in which everyone is physically active which contributes to their health and wellbeing.

“The covid-19 pandemic is a great threat to this vision but during these difficult and troubling times for us all, physical activity has never been so important. Not just for our physical health, but for our mental health, too.

“We are proud of the work we do to provide funds to encourage activity and this latest round of grants will enable more communities to enjoy physical activity.”

Jonathan Wilden, the sometime head teacher at Wallington County Grammar School for Boys in Sutton who now styles himself “CEO at Folio Education Trust”, who were given the South Croydon playing fields to build on, said: “We are thrilled that The London Marathon Charitable Trust has chosen to support our new school build, Coombe Wood School. The funding of two new netball courts will not only provide outstanding facilities for our students but working with Roundwood Netball Club we will be able to raise participation of netball in the local community for all ages and abilities.”

Some might consider it odd, however, that a brand new co-educational school – it is only expected to be finished in time for the new school year in September – being built at a cost to the public purse of at least £30million, which is part-selective on the basis of its pupils’ sports ability, has had to go begging, cap-in-hand, to a charity for a significant sum to provide sports facilities for half its pupils.

Had Wilden’s original plans, fully funded by the Department for Education, really not included netball courts?

As well as not-so-good causes, the two other Croydon-based charity groups appear to intend to make good use of their more modest grants.

How the Socco Cheta plans have been developed for community use of the building in South Norwood

Isabelle Clement, director at Wheels for Wellbeing, said: “Wheels for Wellbeing is extremely grateful to have been awarded a grant which will enable us to welcome more participants, in particular people who cannot transfer out of their wheelchairs or who need the support of someone else in order to feel the wind in their hair.

“Ultimately, this grant means that more disabled people in south London will be able to experience the joy of cycling.”

And Laura Whittall, the project lead for the Socco Cheta Community Hub (which Inside Croydon has reported on in the past), said: “This is a vital project in our community that will enable local people to access an inclusive and diverse range of sports and physical activities to support their health and wellbeing.”

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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