Coffee House

Cameron’s big sporting society

8 August 2012

11:20 AM

8 August 2012

11:20 AM

David Cameron made a spirited defence of school sport this morning when he appeared on LBC radio. Waving a sheet of paper triumphantly, the Prime Minister argued that the 20 school playing field sales that Michael Gove had signed off were actually schools that had closed, surplus fields and ‘surplus marginal school land’.

He also defended the decision to remove a compulsory target for all children to take part in two hours of sport a week:

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Well, look, we haven’t done that, you know, sport is part of the national curriculum and we want schools to deliver sport and I think that’s very important, but frankly, and we’re putting a lot of money in, there’s a billion pounds going into school sport over the next four years. But frankly if the only problem was money, you’d solve this with money. The problem isn’t money, the problem has been too many schools not wanting to have competitive sport, some teachers not really wanting to join in and play their part and so if we want to have a great sporting legacy for our children, and I do: I’ve got an eight year-old, a six year-old and a two year-old and I want them to play competitive sport, and they want to play competitive sport, we’ve got to have an answer that brings the whole of society together to crack this. More competition, more competitiveness, more getting rid of the idea of all must win prizes and you can’t do competitive sports day.

That’s going to make teachers happy: it’s their fault for not wanting to join in with sport, although it is certainly one of the downsides of primary school teachers taking every lesson rather than just their subject specialty.

But as well as advocating a ‘culture change in favour of competitive sports’ in schools, the Prime Minister also suggested he was keen on taking the onus on encouraging children into sporting activity away from teachers and towards ‘the whole of society’. Using his own children’s village sports club as an example, he said it was essential to ‘back the clubs, get the clubs into the schools, link the schools with the clubs’. Cameron doesn’t mention the Big Society much these days, but it’s clear he sees this as an integral part of the Olympic legacy.

Incidentally, a far more powerful piece of evidence that sports teaching in schools is failing isn’t the representation of state schools in our Olympic medal tables, but the soaring obesity in our society. Teachers  – and those local sports clubs – don’t just need to encourage the children with the most sporting potential to climb all the way to the top of their tree, but also encourage a love of physical activity in all their pupils that continues into later life. Obesity costs our health service far more than it does to bring in the medal haul we’ve enjoyed so far at the Olympics: the direct cost of obesity to the NHS is estimated at £5.1 billion per year, while £264.1 million has been invested in Olympic sports.


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Show comments
  • William Blakes Ghost

    Presumably Cameron is going to do something about this rather significant problem then?

    No male teachers at 4,500 primary schools, figures show

    More than a quarter of primary schools have no male teachers, figures show,
    raising fresh concerns over the education of boys.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/primaryeducation/8734967/No-male-teachers-at-4500-primary-schools-figures-show.html#

    Or can someone tell me how many primary school teachers today understand the offside rule (in rugby or football) or the LBW rule? When I was a kid mine did.

    A good few of thesew dotted around the country from primary school upwards (providing an appropriate academic education as well of course) wouldn’t go amiss either:

    Sports academy school plans are well received
    http://www.thisisleicestershire.co.uk/Sports-academy-school-plans-received/story-15858746-detail/story.html

  • Rabyrover

    Schools in many countries do not do sports. In German secondary schools, academic activities and compulsory schooling ends at lunch time. Afternoons are for voluntary activities like music, religious education and sports. Hence if you want to do sports you do it at a sports club.
    That Britain has done well at these Olympics has probably little to do with the amount of sport done in schools; more likely our success has been due to the generous funding provided by the national lottery to elite athletes and their coaches so that they can practice as full time professionals.

  • Daniel Maris

    I’m not convinced the “sporting excellence” model is relevant for schools. What we need to inculcate is an enjoyment in healthy exercise and games playing, which indeed is good for a healthy mind. Teenage girls might prefer dance exercise to expensive lacrosse/rowing/sailing etc. It’s stupid to waste millions on expensive minority sports that only a few can gain enjoyment from.

  • http://twitter.com/MaggieLavan MaggieLavan

    I live near a rowing area of the Thames and I suspect that too many people developed an enthusiasm for rowing after the Beijing Olympics. The rowing world couldn’t cope with them all. Rowing classes suddenly sprung up that involved young girls, in particular, having to row in eights and tens at 6am on Winter mornings in driving rain and snow while being barked at through a megaphone. This gruelling treatment whittled them down to manageable numbers in no time.

    • Alan Eastwood

      But dear Maggie. That happens in most other rowing towns and cities. If they cannot do it the sport is not for them. Strange that rowing is still very very popular.

      • http://twitter.com/MaggieLavan MaggieLavan

        I realise that. Its a clever way of finding out who is determined to go through hell and high water to reach their goal and at the same time weeding out the “social|” rowers. But I wondered what the outcome would be if they were introduced to it gently and then the pressure and pain were gradually added. Same outcome I suppose – the weak would drop out?

  • ButcombeMan

    “That’s going to make teachers happy: it’s their fault for not wanting to join in with sport”,

    Dead right, in many cases it is. This is about culture. The culture of 30 years of the NUT “all must have prizes”. It has applied both to academic subjects and to sport, it is about time we got some leadership on this from our politicians. It is also about time they told the truth.

    I commented to an earlier post about this subject and got a lot of support here. I described then, a school some of my grandchildren went to where individual competition in sport was forbidden because of a head who disliked one child beating another.

    Maybe not a coincidence that the same school did not teach multiplication tables?. That school remains dead set against it.

    Gove is not getting everything right but he does seem to be tackling this culture issue. Competition improves the breed, it is the way of nature.

    The leftist agenda needs to be flushed out and exposed to the light. Politicians are ducking exposing it and saying what it really is. Worse, commentators here are at it as well.

    • David Lindsay

      I was a very fit child and teenager who was no good at sport. Pencil thin, I even had a primary school teacher who would berate me in front of the class, by no means only in PE lessons, for being overweight. It was beyond me then, and it is beyond me now, why the obvious need for physical exercise had to be met in the form of competitive sport.

      As for the lesson usually said to be learned from such activity, has it ever occurred to those who come out with that argument that academic work might have been a more appropriate way of teaching that lesson? After all, it is not at all as if they themselves were the types that they glorify. Politics and the media are not exactly replete with people who look as if they were always picked first for sports teams. Is that how you picture the adolescent Michael Gove or Boris Johnson?

      Yet somehow, even when made a Secretary of State or Mayor of London, they remain convinced that they have failed at life because they were not like that, and desperately pretend to cultivate the impression that they must have been, since no one else would possibly wish to inflict the whole process on anyone else. Would they?

      The slavering public school commentariat’s insistence that school uniforms, of which I am a staunch defender, were given up in state schools some time a generation or so ago (when the Conservatives were in government and exercising far tighter control over schools than hitherto, but never mind) is totally false in my experience and in that of everyone whom I have ever met. So, too, is the slavering public school commentariat’s insistence that competitive sport was given up in state schools some time a generation or so ago (when the Conservatives were in government and exercising far tighter control over schools than hitherto, but never mind).

      What we do all remember, however, is the flogging off of school fields. When the Conservatives were in government and exercising far tighter control over schools than hitherto. The academies so beloved of Michael Gove, his “free” schools being a form of them, are already being built with no outdoor space whatever, on the grounds that people are there, at those places of business, strictly in order to work. And remember that every school is eventually supposed to become one.

  • John_Page

    it is certainly one of the downsides of primary school teachers taking every lesson rather than just their subject speciality

    We had perfectly good competitive sports days at primary school without specialist sports teachers. Stop thinking up excuses for them. It’s part of their job. And, as you suggest, the obesity numbers suggest they’re not doing it.

    • Alan Eastwood

      John, The problem is the obesity of the teachers.

  • Heartless etc

    this morning when he appeared on LBC radio. Waving a sheet of paper triumphantly

    I know he is the H2B – but ‘appearing’ and ‘waving paper’ on radio?

    • Alan Eastwood

      I thought the same Heartless etc.
      A touch of Archie Andrews the ventriloquist dummy on the highly successful fifties radio show….you could never see Brough’s lip move either.

      • Heartless etc

        Ah – thanks for that pleasing reminder AE, – most welcome, – a time when the world seemed to make more sense than ever it does now.

    • Airey Belvoir

      I saw him on LBC, thanks to the camera that they have in the studio. He seemed to spend a lot of time with his head in his hands though.

      • Alan Eastwood

        Airey, He was trying to hide from the camera!

  • John Steel

    It seems odd, and typical of our politics, that our response to the exceptional sporting success of people from many backgrounds, is to bemoan the (relative) failure of state schools.
    So politics becomes a sterile debate about failure, and who is to blame; rather than a more fruitful debate about creating and sustaining the conditions for success.
    Congratulations to Sir John Major for creating the Lottery that supported our athletes.

  • John Steel

    It seems odd, and typical of our politics, that our response to the exceptional sporting success of people from many backgrounds, is to bemoan the (relative) failure of state schools.
    So politics becomes a sterile debate about failure, and who is to blame; rather than a more fruitful debate about creating and sustaining the conditions for success.
    Congratulations to Sir John Major for creating the Lottery that supported our athletes.

    • tele_machus

      Agree, John Major-the only good Tory PM
      Mainly known for Black Wednesday and the Bastards
      Oh and of course Maastricht
      But he did let Tony in

      • jules

        hope there’s some irony there…………

      • jules

        hope there’s some irony there…………

    • URAllPigs

      Yes, thank you John Major for the lottery and it’s emphasis on supporting sport. It’s a shame he was a member and latterly a leader of a Government that sold off 5000 playing fields in the 10 years to 1997.

      Thanks too to Labour Manchester for building and retaining the cycling facilities that have provided the foundations for spectacular success at the last 2 Olympics and this year’s Tour de France.

      And hats off to Blair, Jowell and Livingstone for winning us the Olympics and ensuring that they were delivered to time and budget, in the world’s most diverse city.

      Now if only Gove would reinstate Labour’s Schools Sports Partnerships and the rules which require the funds generated by the sale of playing fields to be used to improve sports provision we might see further success in the future.

      • Alan Eastwood

        URAPRAT. Goodness knows what a sad life you must lead.
        Schools should be totally apolitical. Sadly the Labour party ensured that by their ‘everyone is a winner’ regime children throughout the land have had a competition free school life.
        Life is about competition. It is what made this Great Country what it was. With people like you, without the guts to use your own name, hiding and making stupid suggestions.
        Get a life.

        • URAllPigs

          Mr Eastwood, thank you for your eloquent reply. In order to help me understand the error of my ways I would be very grateful if you could explain which part(s) of my post you find disagreeable? I acknowledged John Major’s contribution the funding of elite sports through the creation of the lottery, but pointed out that he had also been a part of a government that reduced the sports infrastructure in state schools. The Manchester velodrome was built by Manchester City Council (Labour) for the Commonwealth Games it hosted in 2002, and is used throughout the year by the British cycling team which achieved phenomenal success in both Beijing and London. It was the Blair government that won the right to host the London Olympics. Michael Gove in government has scrapped school sports partnerships which were designed to bring expert coaches into schools and identify children with sporting talent, the requirement that children should have at least 2 hours physical education a week, and the requirement that where schools sell-off playing fields the money they generate is used to improve sports provision. Is any of this incorrect? If so please provide the evidence. You also stated that schools should be apolitical; where did I suggest otherwise? And finally you claim that Labour introduced the “everyone is a winner” regime – again, I would be grateful for your evidence of this (given that Mrs Thatcher closed down more Grammar schools than any other education secretary; Kenneth Baker scrapped O Levels; and Michael Gove has scrapped the basic requirements to provide sport).

      • Nicholas

        Curious that a very similar comment about 5000 playing fields sold off under Thatcher (“Burn the witch!”) was made by “Resident Leftie” at Conservative Home. That figure appears in a policy paper by ‘History & Policy’ but it is worth looking at the people behind that supposedly “independent” and “impartial” organisation busily re-writing history as most of them seem to have connections to the Labour party or obvious socialist backgrounds. Their papers are dressed up to look objective but are subliminally damning towards the right. I have also seen 10,000 fields mentioned. But then anything connected with the left only has the most tenuous relationship with the truth. Theirs is a world of propaganda and slinging mud against walls, because they know that some will always stick.

        • Pete

          It’s true sadly and should be something sport lovers of all political persuasions should be able to unite against imo. Don’t have a definitive number but thousands of playing fields were sold off to property developers between 79 and 97. Gove has started doing it again as well. Osbourne diluting planning laws will see a second assault on playing fields and parks in the name of economic development and house building.

  • Arthur

    We’ve had 30 years of the NUT’s education policies; isn’t it time they were challenged?

    • Nicholas

      Yes. But challenging them is difficult because of the closed and obstinate minds that inhabit the Labour Party (q.v. telemucus above).

      They never admit they are wrong, they reinforce failure even when the evidence proves beyond reasonable doubt that it is failure and when anything goes wrong it is ALWAYS someone else’s fault.

    • URAllPigs

      Education policies are set by Government. We have had 17 years of Tory Secretaries of State for Education over the last 30 years. It’s time the right start accepting responsibility as well as preaching it.

      • David Lindsay

        Quite so. And the teaching unions are not, nor have they ever been affiliated to the Labour Party. Nor has anything like the majority of teachers ever voted Labour; in fact, until fairly recently, over half of them voted Conservative.

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