Leaving aside the debate about whether literacy and numeracy or sport should be at the “heart” of what primary schools do, the sentiment that, following the Olympics, pupils should have “the skills to enjoy and take part in sport inside and outside of school, including local leagues and community and club sports” is surely laudable.
However, the Downing Street press release continues:
“The current primary curriculum is too long and prescriptive” [which we would agree with] and “refers to concepts like ‘games activities’, not recognised and recognisable sports”.
What exactly are “recognised and recognisable sports”? Activities such as throwing and running around even if not undertaken competitively are actually excellent preparation for future sporting champions of many disciplines.
“The [new] PE programme of study, which will be slimmer and more focused, aims to:
* enable pupils to be physically active for sustained periods of time;
* develop pupils’ competence in a broad range of physical activities;
* provide opportunities for pupils to engage in competitive sports and activities and help pupils to lead healthy and active lifestyles.”
All good so far
“The new national PE curriculum, to be published in draft in the autumn, will require every primary school child to take part in competitive team sport.
“It will include a requirement for all primary school children to take part in competitive team sports, like football, netball and hockey, and will include team outdoor and adventurous activity. It will also teach older children to compare their performances to achieve their personal best for the first time. A commitment to teach all children to swim will remain in the curriculum.”
Swimming and outdoor activities are good, although it remains unclear what the “adventurous activity” suitable for primary-aged children will be.
However, most boys hardly need encouragement to want to play football, so why the obsession with the so-called ‘national game’ when, either individually (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland) or collectively (as the GB team at the 2012 games), the UK’s national football teams have not won a tournament since 1966 (England) or at all (the rest), and when most of the gold medals at London 2012 were won by individuals or pairs in sports, many of which unlike football receive little or no media coverage outside the Olympics?
Forced participation in a narrow range of team games could put many children off sport for life. Many less sporty children already dislike PE so they would be appalled by London Mayor Boris Johnson’s two hours a day of compulsory sport, while the Government has been criticised for previously scrapping a target of two hours physical education a week for school children.
We need to get the balance right. Surely it is funding, time and diversity that are key here. What is important is that if children find a sport or sports that they like, they will continue to keep fit outside school and as adults, while some will then find a sport which they can excel at. Many adults will remember ‘bunking off’ cross-country running (or hiding to miss out a few laps) or rugby even forging parental sick notes but they might have enjoyed badminton or tennis or cycling or gymnastics .
“The Government’s plans for Olympics legacy include 6,000 links developed between sports clubs and schools so that every secondary school will have the chance of a link with a proper sports club. There are already 5,000 links set up and we will now expand this to cover an increasing number of primary schools.”
This sounds rather like a hastily revived Schools Sports Partnership scheme, scrapped by this government.
Some schools also face the challenge of finding space for sports. Both Conservative and Labour governments have presided over the sale of school playing fields. According to the BBC:
Some of the new free schools promoted by Mr Gove are based in former office blocks or commercial premises with no outdoor facilities.
Prime Minister David Cameron said:
“We need to end the ‘all must have prizes’ culture and get children playing and enjoying competitive sports from a young age, linking them up with sports clubs so they can pursue their dreams.”
Not the first time the Prime Minister is perpetuating a myth about a supposed lack of “competitive sports” in state schools when he should be celebrating the many Olympic achievements which had their roots in the dedication and encouragement of school teachers, coaches and volunteers. (TES)
In the same Government press release, we are told that:
“The Government has also run the first School Games this year, with more than half the schools in the country taking part.“
That looks like the majority of schools taking part in competitive school sport, then
“The facts tell a different story. The proportion of pupils playing competitive sports increased from 58 per cent to 78 per cent between 2006-07 and 2009-10, according to the Department for Education. Tens of thousands of teachers in state schools routinely devote hours of their time to developing athletic talent. To airbrush them out of the national sporting picture is mean, unjust It’s true that athletes who went to independent schools have won a disproportionate number of our medals. But the conclusion reached that state schools lack the necessary sporting ‘culture’ is bizarre. No: what they lack is money. Dressage is difficult to do well in Deptford.
“Independent schools can afford armies of dedicated staff, generous scholarships and excellent venues most of which, by the way, they share with local state schools. But why should their deserved success be used to bash the maintained sector?”
What matters is that there is a real and lasting legacy from London 2012′. School sport should not be about forced participation or encouraging only the most talented important though it is to identify and nurture the Olympians of the future but about involving pupils at all levels and about building a lasting legacy of facilities and equipment that future generations can enjoy.
Images: London 2012