Posted on 4th August 2012
No Medals for School Sports
I think there are very few people who have entirely positive memories of school sports, and most have a number of horror stories to share. From the nightmares in year 7 of finding the correct socks for the right sport, playing matches on rainy Saturdays after driving for hours to other schools for away games and early morning swimming practice in freezing cold pools and nasty regulation costumes, there’s a multitude of bad memories. Of course many people do also have lots of positive memories of school sport as well, but in the main there seem to be very few people who have solely good things to say about P.E in academic institutions.
At the moment we are unable to escape from sport with London 2012 in full flow, and the Games have highlighted some key issues about the state of sports in British schools. The statistic that has really got debates fired up is the fact that in the last Olympics in Beijing 50% of the British medal winners were privately educated. However, only 7% of children attend independent schools. This clearly highlights the need to improve sports in state schools since there is such a great imbalance.
Lord Moynihan, the chairman of the British Olympic Association said that it “was one of the worst statistics in British sport” and that “it is wholly unacceptable that over 50% of our medalists in Beijing came from the private sector. It tells you that 50% of the medals came from 7% of the population.” Indeed, there surely must be a great deal of talent in the other 93% which isn’t being nurtured and developed. Moynihan is adamant that improving the emphasis on sport in state schools should be “a priority for future sports policy” and has declared that he “will continue to speak about it until there is not breath left in [him].’
Moynihan isn’t the only high profile figure who is concerned about the issue and David Cameron has questioned why “in so many schools sport has been squeezed out and facilities run down.” Yet Labour politicians have accused Cameron’s party of being responsible for a 60% drop in the amount of time given to sport in the school curriculum as a result of government spending cuts. It was also under Thatcher that many state schools’ playing fields and grounds were sold off, massively reducing the facilities for sport, and also sending out a signal that sport was not terribly important.
Interestingly there is one sport where the figures are reversed, and the majority of professional football players attended state schools. Lord Moynihan has pointed out that, “The balance of professional football is that around seven per cent of players come from the private sector, which is an absolute mirror image of society.” He believes “that should be the case in every single sport and that should be the priority in each and every sport and that is something that every government should strive for.”
Fortunately the Coalition has recently announced that 60% of Sport England’s budget (£1bn over the next five years) is to be used to strengthen links between sports clubs and schools. However, I worry that this measure alone will improve things drastically, and believe that teachers need to find more time in the school day for sports and ensure that their sports teachers are highly trained and dedicated to developing the sporting talent of their pupils. Hopefully this year’s Olympics will raise awareness and increase passion for school sports, and perhaps we will have more fantastic young British Olympians in future years.