The state of school sports: Guardian blog

Here’s my article for The Guardian’s Teacher Network on the government’s current stance on sport in our state schools:

If you feel strongly about this or would like to share your school sport experience please leave a comment on the following link.  Spaces for comments are below the article, just scroll down…

Oh dear David and co, what a can of worms you have opened. The simple message from Mr Cameron seems to be “teachers, get off your backsides and make state school sport brilliant”. But David, will we receive the relevant amount of funding and support to accommodate this dream?

One question springs to my mind given the government’s stance on state school sport – do any Olympians leave their sporting success to chance? Of course not. Athletes invest in years of sustainable, long-term planning and dedication in order secure the best possible future outcome.  Unfortunately, it seems the government’s (lack of a coherent) plan for state school sport seems to be heavily reliant on chance, luck and individual circumstance.

On the surface, the scrapping of the compulsory ‘box ticking’ two hours of PE per week could be considered as a positive move: giving school leaders and and PE teachers local autonomy over their sporting curriculum. However, as we dig deeper, a complex web of factors come into play:

  • The level of importance given to PE by the school’s leadership team – is it held in the same regard as mathematics, English and science or is it considered to be a burden that eats up valuable time from the exhausting task of climbing up the league table ladder?
  • What is the size of the PE department and how much funding is available for it?  There is now less opportunity to ring fence funding for sport in state schools now the sport college movement is slowly grinding to a halt.  Therefore, some school leaders may decide to redirect funding to enhance other curriculum areas in their school.

However, what is evident is that PE is a fertile melting pot where teamwork, personal discipline, resilience and grit are all skills that can be developed in abundance and transferred into other areas of a students’ academic career.  The effect of these transferable skills should not be underestimated. We must also consider more human factors. Thousands of teachers around the country willingly give up their free time on a daily basis to provide high quality sporting opportunities for their students.  What is the commitment of teachers in your school like?  I remember my old boss telling me how he got his school’s Saturday morning rugby programme off the ground.  Every Saturday morning he had to sweep the local town to pick up the students and some cases knock on front doors to get them out of bed just to get them to home fixtures. Now, this was clearly going above and beyond his mandatory commitments but, 15 years down the line, the school now successfully competes nationally with the big private schools in the country.

Sport should be at the very heart of every school’s curriculum, it should be in the same league as mathematics, English and science and schools need both funding and the dedication of its teachers to ensure the long term, country wide success of state school sport. Of course the Olympics will have an immediate impact on participation rates in school sport, however, I fear, in the current educational climate, the impact will be short term and rely more on chance, luck and the schools’ individual priorities and circumstance rather than an intelligent, well thought out national model that could have positive reverberations for generations to come.

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One Response to The state of school sports: Guardian blog

  1. April says:

    My school is a Sports College which thrived on sport as it’s focus, the students have been given multiple opportunities over the years to take part in new Sports (including Paralympic) and it was what the school centred around, it was as you you say the very ‘heart of every school’s curriculum’. We used it not only to get students to participate but it went cross-curricular as they became inspired with new opportunities, skills and ways to get involved in Sport without needing to actually do it. They took part for the fun of new environments.

    Without out the funding we are as every other specialist school, self-named. The sport funding decrease has taken it’s toll on both the school and our partnership. Events are limited with what have and the focus is going off fun and more on competition. Not our whole focus! When you think of school, you think of Curriculum and Sport. they all come hand in hand and all need the same rate of funding to what they deserve. How can a school be successful if it has no way on improving? how can a teacher be enthusiastic with it’s students when things become repetitive? how can we create something new when we are given less to work with? all questions which come into vision when this has occurred. Schools are actually having to put money into the Partnership to get in return what it needs, is this how we are to strive for the future? having a government who are telling teachers off when they can not relate or even know to any extent on what the situation had become?

    David may have a higher status than us, but we do not deserve to be told to get a move on when we are working with what he has changed. He has no right until he understands and so the funding should be returned. I will end it with one question;

    How can we give students opportunities to progress when those chances have become limited?

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