The education secretary says his tougher tests will raise standards yet he is also creating more opportunities for unqualified teachers
This week the Department for Education has announced a shakeup of teacher training, applying what future generations will no doubt refer to as the “Gove principle”, whereby any perceived issue can be solved by making the exams more difficult. Not content with belittling the effort of thousands of students by announcing how worthless their GCSEs were just days after the grades were released, it has now been announced that teachers too have not been tested thoroughly enough and a more “robust” system will be brought in to compensate for the low standards of literacy and numeracy displayed by hapless educators.
While there are significant issues with the current selection process for aspiring teachers, it seems there are one or two glaring omissions in the logic that justifies spending limited resources on developing a new testing system. Fifteen years of education resulting in a degree should really imply a certain standard of literacy and numeracy, and if it doesn’t perhaps our university system requires some scrutiny. I’m sure Michael Gove will get round to suggesting tougher degrees at some point in the future, perhaps with lower grade boundaries for those from disadvantaged backgrounds to encourage social mobility.
It is a universal truth that we lose the skills we don’t use regularly, and GCSE maths is no exception. The new tests will take place before an applicant is accepted on to teacher training and are expected to increase in difficulty until they represent a B grade at GCSE. Woe betide any potential PE teacher or dance instructor who has not seen a maths paper in five years, who cannot tell a histogram from a heptagon, or a vector from a vulgar fraction. That’s not to say that the aforementioned PE teachers lack the ability to pass these tests. Currently those training to be teachers are able to get support from fellow students in order to help them pass the English, maths and ICT exams. Trainee teachers in these subjects benefit by developing their professional skills by assisting their peers before they are let loose in a classroom for the first time and the non-specialists get a chance to relearn those skills they have forgotten.
In recent years a very dangerous idea seems to have been accepted by the decision-makers around the education system that the best teachers are the best qualified teachers, leading to a sliding scale of funding that financially disadvantages those without high-class degrees from the classroom. The reality is very different. A good teacher has to be an exceptional communicator, with patience, common sense, focus, more than a little belligerence and vast reserves of tolerance and empathy. Many prospective teachers simply do not possess these qualities and yet are accepted on to teacher training and even passed despite every indication that they do not have what it takes. The most fantastic academic background cannot make up for a lack of these qualities, but a great communicator with a third-class degree has far more than the necessary knowledge to inspire a class of teenagers.
Ultimately these new tests are a smokescreen hiding far more significant issues, as Gove has previously made it clear that qualified teacher status is not a requirement to inhabit the classrooms of the increasing numbers of academies and free schools. How he expects his new tougher teacher tests to enhance our education system while he is responsible for creating more opportunities for unqualified teachers to educate our children is a question I would love to know the answer to.
Departing British Olympic Association chairman wants state primaries to benefit from independent schools in return for £100m tax breaks
Private schools should have to share their sports facilities with state primaries in return for the £100m-a-year tax breaks they enjoy through their charitable status, according to the outgoing chairman of the British Olympic Association.
The intervention from Lord Moynihan, who oversaw Team GB’s impressive medals haul at London 2012, will place further pressure on ministers, who are facing fierce criticism for failing to deliver the promised Olympic legacy for grassroots sport.
Talking to the Observer, Moynihan, a former Tory sports minister who is concerned by the lack of provision for sport in state schools and the absence of proper links between schools and clubs, also demanded a revolution in training for PE teachers and compulsory inspection of state schools’ sporting activities by Ofsted. The former Olympic rowing silver medallist unveiled his ideas as confusion over government policy grew, with the department for education saying that David Cameron’s recent pledge to make competitive sport compulsory in all primary schools would not cover the 377 primaries that have already become academies or free schools – or any that will do so in future – because they do not have to teach the national curriculum. Education secretary Michael Gove has invited all primary and secondary schools to apply for academy status and enjoy the greater freedoms that result.
With sports facilities and trained PE teachers lacking in many primary schools, Moynihan said tighter rules should be introduced. “State secondary schools with good sports facilities, as well as all independent schools, should be required to share their facilities and co-operate with the primary schools in their catchment areas,” he said. “For the independent schools, this could be part of the public benefit requirement under the Charities Act.”
At the London Olympics, 37% of Team GB medallists were privately educated, although private schools educate just 7% of British children.
Private schools enjoy charitable status if they can show they are operating for the public good, bringing them tax breaks estimated to benefit the sector by around £100m a year. But there are no specific requirement on sharing sports facilities. Labour is looking at plans to force private schools to do more in return for charitable status.
Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg said: “Alongside tough rules on playing field sell-offs, Labour wants to ensure that private schools do much more to support local state schools, such as opening up their playing fields and providing equipment and coaching. Private schools must ensure they are fulfilling the duties that come with charitable status.”
Moynihan cited an event in the runup to the Olympics at Tonbridge School in Kent – which invited more than 1,100 local state-school children to an Olympics day – as a model of how the private sector should operate.
A spokesman for the Independent Schools Council said that in a recent survey of more than 1,200 private schools, 522 reported that they allowed pupils from state schools to use their sporting facilities (though in many cases the schools are expected to pay); 561 schools held joint sporting events with state schools; and 171 reported “other” sporting partnerships.
Cameron’s pledge to make competitive sport compulsory in the national curriculum for primaries, made during the Olympics fortnight, has already been questioned by sports experts who say many primaries lack the facilities and staff to deliver that commitment.
Moynihan called for urgent action on training: “The delivery of quality training programmes for primary-school physical education teachers is patchy at best. More than 60% of primary school trainees receive less than six hours’ preparation to teach physical education. Yet some providers do a good job. The Teaching Agency should ensure that there is a step change in the delivery of good-quality physical education for all teacher training programmes.”
When Gove, who is under pressure for giving permission for the sale of state school playing fields, took up the reins at the DfE in 2010, he cut funding for school sport and scrapped the annual survey of how much sport was being played in state schools.
Moynihan said it was vital that if a legacy were to be delivered, official inspections had to be conducted and records kept to monitor progress.
“Ofsted should expand its remit, and inspect and report on curriculum-time physical education as well as out-of-hours sport in all schools,” he said. “This would lead to the provision of sufficient curriculum time, as well as provide a call to heads and school governors to invest in professional development for both teachers and coaches, while encouraging parents, volunteers and local clubs to become directly linked to all schools.
“All schools should keep records of curriculum time, progression and measures taken to improve the quality and range of physical education and school sport within and beyond the curriculum, not least because that is what parents want to know.”
A DfE spokesman confirmed that Cameron’s pledge on compulsory competitive sport would not cover academies and free schools – the flagships of government policy – but said those schools still had to provide a “broad and balanced” education that would include sport: “We trust head teachers to ensure their pupils undertake appropriate sports provision. The national curriculum will set a benchmark for academies and free schools to measure themselves against, and for parents to use to hold them to account.”
Stephen Twigg condemns government relaxation of school sports field regulations days before Olympics started
Labour is calling for a vote in parliament demanding that the government restore regulations on the minimum outdoor space schools must offer pupils for team games.
The education secretary, Michael Gove, has relaxed the rules that set out the space each school had to provide. The new regulations state simply that “suitable” space must be provided to teach PE and let pupils play outside.
Stephen Twigg, the shadow education secretary, said Labour would table a motion on the regulations when parliament returns in September.
Twigg has renewed his attack on the Conservative education secretary on Wednesday. He said: “How can [Gove] think that the priority should be to weaken the standards on playing fields and outdoor space just a few days before the Olympics?
“We have already had the scrapping of the target of pupils doing a minimum two hours of PE per week, the decision to cut the school sport budget by 69% and the abolishing of school sports partnerships. Many parents will be wondering how seriously the government are taking the legacy of inspiring the next generation.”
The new outdoor space regulations were approved by schools minister Lord Hill on 19 July, a week before the Olympics’ opening ceremony. The guidelines are intended to come into force at the end of October.
Under the previous rules, secondary schools were expected to provide pitches ranging from 5,000 sq metres (54,000 sq ft) for the smallest schools to 35,000 sq metres for schools with 600 pupils or more. Campaigners fear the new rules will pave the way for the further sell-off of playing fields and lead to increasingly patchy school sports provision.
Alison Moore-Gwyn, chief executive of the charity Fields in Trust, said: “At this point in time, following the glory of the 2012 Olympics and the government’s determination to create a sporting legacy, it is bewildering that they would be considering new guidelines which refer to ‘appropriate arrangements’ or ‘suitable facilities’ which are all too open to interpretation.
“Whilst in principle I’m sure we all agree that a reduction in bureaucracy is welcome we are concerned these new guidelines will not ensure a benchmark standard of provision exists across all schools and will make change of use of school playing fields much easier.”
Labour accused Gove of “sneaking out” the changes while Parliament is in recess, so MPs do not have a chance to debate them.
The Department for Education claims it is removing “bureaucratic” restrictions to make it easier for schools to provide extra places for pupils.
A DfE spokesman said: “It is simply wrong to say that playing fields are threatened, easier to sell, or easier to build on because of this government. This government strengthened the protection for playing fields in February this year. Now, no school – maintained, academy or free school – can build classrooms on playing fields without express permission from the Secretary of State for Education.”
Prime minister vows that London 2012 will have positive effect on UK economy as he boasts of sporting and social legacy
David Cameron has declared that Britain has “shown the world what we are made of” and vowed that the success of the Olympics would leave a positive legacy for sport, volunteering and the British economy.
With Britain third in the medal table and the Paralympic Games still to come, Cameron used the midpoint of London 2012 to declare that “Britain delivered” and had shown itself to be “not a country whose time has been but whose time has come”.
“We showed the world what we are made of, we reminded ourselves what we can do and we demonstrated that you should never ever count Team GB down and out. The lesson of these past weeks is that Britain can, and should, be ambitious.
“Frankly, we have got to dismiss the cynics who say we cannot do big things and prove them wrong. We in this country are going to make sure that these are not just Games that made history but the Games that helped to shape our future.”
As the Games prepared to draw to a close on Sunday, a clearly cheered prime minister paid tribute to a “truly great country” where a boy born in Somalia, Mo Farah, could come to the UK, seize on the opportunities “and run his way into the nation’s heart”.
“Over the last couple of weeks we have looked in the mirror and we like what we have seen as a country,” he said.
The prime minister, who has appointed Lord Coe, chair of the London 2012 Olympic organising committee (Locog), as his Olympic legacy adviser to help secure the long-term benefits of hosting the Games, vowed to draw on this spirit to ensure the impact of the Games “isn’t just for the summer, but for good”.
He promised a “physical legacy” that would ensure the Olympic Park was put to good use, an economic legacy “with new deals broken on the back of these Games”, one for volunteers who want to play a part in a “bigger society”, and one for sport.
Cameron confirmed that sport would continue to receive £125m a year up to the next Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, with £87m coming from the national lottery and £40m from the exchequer.
The prime minister also defended his decision to put competitive sport such as football, hockey and netball in a new draft PE curriculum, due to be published in the autumn – a measure announced over the weekend as he faced down calls to bring back a target for pupils to do two hours of sport a week.
“We are saying out with the bureaucratic, anti-risk, all-must-have-prizes culture, which has led to a death of competitive sport in too many schools, and in with the belief that competition is healthy, that winning and losing is an important part of growing up” said Cameron.
He added: “The trouble with so many of the top-down targets is they become something that schools think once you’ve achieved, that’s it. I think that’s been one of the problems in the provision of sport.”
The move will only cover local authority-run state schools, however, since academies and free schools are free to set their own curriculum.
Cameron said he believed in giving schools much greater freedom but felt it was “a mistake” that the national curriculum currently makes no mention of “competitive sport”.
“The two are totally reconcilable – the competition between schools that we are going to see, now that more schools are academies and more schools have these freedoms, I think will engender great competition in terms of schools wanting to do more to respond to the demand that parents and children have for sporting activity, physical exercise and all the rest of it.
“So competition and choice and diversity will help to drive up provision but at the heart of the national curriculum should be a few simple ideas about what we mean when we talk about sport in our schools.”
Commenting on the fact that his two older children were at a state school that didn’t have a green space as big as the Downing Street garden to play, Cameron said he wanted his children to have the chance to play mainstream sports such as football, rugby and netball “alongside really important things in terms of PE”.
Meanwhile, the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, defended the requirement for two weekly hours of PE in schools, saying that it had seen a big rise in the number of children doing sport.
He told BBC News: “I think at least two hours of sport in school a week, that was the idea that the last Labour government had, I think it was the right thing to do and we saw a dramatic improvement in the number of kids doing two hours’ sport – from something like 25% to 90%.”
But the Labour leader stressed he did not want “political argey-bargey” and said he wanted to see a cross-party 10-year plan for sport.
David Cameron is expected to guarantee funding for the system behind Team GB’s success through to the Rio Games in 2016
In the wake of Team GB’s Olympic success in London, the prime minister is expected to confirm that funding for elite sport will be guaranteed through to the next Games in Rio.
As the medals have poured in, pressure has grown on the government to guarantee the funding of the quango overseeing the high-performance system that has powered Team GB to third place in the medal table.
Going into the Games, UK Sport’s funding – derived from a mixture of National Lottery and exchequer revenue – was protected only until the next comprehensive spending review in 2014-15.
But as part of a package of Olympic legacy announcements, David Cameron is expected to confirm that funding will be maintained at least at the same level as for London over the next four years.
UK Sport has received around £500m over the past four years, with around £312m of that poured into the world-class performance programme that funds Olympic sport. According to its “no compromise” formula, the money is directed at those sports most likely to win medals. Cycling, rowing, sailing and athletics all receive more than £25m over each four-year cycle.
The system has been credited with helping Team GB from 10th place in the medal table in Athens in 2004 to fourth in Beijing and a likely third in London. In return for guaranteeing the funding through to 2016 and giving UK Sport the ability to plan with certainty, the government will require the body to take more of a lead in improving the operation of sports’ governing bodies.
Amid an ongoing debate about the future of school sport, and criticism of the education secretary Michael Gove’s decision to axe £162m in ringfenced funding for organised school sport in favour of a £65m pot that is guaranteed only until next year, Cameron has also announced plans to require every primary school pupil to take part in competitive team sport as part of the curriculum.
“I want to use the example of competitive sport at the Olympics to lead a revival of competitive sport in primary schools. 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,” Cameron said. “That’s why the new national curriculum in the autumn will include a requirement for primary schools to provide competitive sport.”
Critics of the government’s school sport strategy say the conflict between competitive sport and physical exercise is a false one and that both have their place. They say it is more important to have a network of dedicated sports specialists working in primary schools, something that is threatened when funding for a day release scheme for secondary school PE teachers runs out later this year.
The new PE curriculum, to be published in draft form this autumn, will be “slimmer and more focused” and “encourage outdoor and adventurous activity”, Downing Street said.
PM says new requirement to be part of national curriculum, after coming under fire for scrapping two-hours-a-week sport target
Competitive team sports will be made compulsory for all primary age children, David Cameron said on Saturday, after he criticised schools for holding Indian dance classes instead.
The prime minister, who is under fire for scrapping a target for pupils to do two hours of sport a week, said the new requirement would be included in the revised national curriculum.
School sport has been thrust into the spotlight by Great Britain’s success at the London Olympics, amid concerns that the momentum from the Games could be lost unless youngsters are offered more opportunities.
Critics have called for the target, which Labour introduced, to be reinstated. Boris Johnson, the London mayor, said he wanted to see pupils emulating the two hours a day of sport he enjoyed at Eton.
Cameron, however, dismissed the the idea of reintroducing the target, saying on Friday that many schools were meeting it “by doing things like Indian dance or whatever, that you and I probably wouldn’t think of as sport”.
Setting out his plans to ensure the London 2012 “Inspire a Generation” slogan is met, he said he wanted to end an “all must have prizes” culture and push pupils to think about beating their personal bests.
The most recent government survey of primary schools found that more than 10,000 primary schools had fewer than half of their pupils competing against other schools three or more times a year; at 1,950 schools, none of the students took part in such competitions.
A new draft PE curriculum, to be published in the autumn, will make it compulsory to take part in what Downing Street called “recognised and recognisable sports” such as football, hockey and netball. It will also prescribe “team outdoor and adventurous activity”.
Cameron said: “The idea of an Olympics legacy has been built into the DNA of London 2012 from the very beginning. Now the London Olympics has been a great success, we need to use the inspiration of the Games to get children playing sport more regularly.
“I want to use the example of competitive sport at the Olympics to lead a revival of competitive sport in primary schools. 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.
“That’s why the new national curriculum in the autumn will include a requirement for primary schools to provide competitive sport.”
Cameron, who has said two hours a week is insufficient, has come under fire from teaching unions for suggesting the targets had led to a tick-box mentality where some teachers did the minimum required.
However, shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg said: “If David Cameron supports primary school sport, why did he abolish Schools Sports Partnerships which allowed primary schools access to coaches, staff and facilities to do competitive sport?
“This announcement doesn’t look like a thought-through plan – there are no details of how this will be supported or funded and no plan for secondary schools.
“Instead of seeking to blame teachers and divide the country, Labour wants to build a consensus with a cross-party, 10-year plan for school sport.”
Youth Sport Trust chair Baroness Sue Campbell welcomed the move but cautioned that teachers would need extra support if it was to be effective. She said:”In primary schools there are no specialist teachers of PE and sport so it will be critical to provide training and support for teachers if we are to maximise this opportunity.”
Research indicates a 60% decrease in amount of time dedicated to organising nationwide participation for pupils
On the eve of an Olympic Games that has promised to “inspire a generation of young people through sport”, research has indicated a 60% drop in the amount of time dedicated to organising school sport nationwide in the wake of government cuts.
The research, compiled by Labour through Freedom of Information requests to 150 top tier local authorities, shows there are now 110 fewer School Sport Partnerships – local networks of organised school sport – than there were before the cuts in 2009/10, a decline of 37%.
Almost half of local authorities (48%) recorded a decrease in the number of School Sport Partnerships, while 28% no longer have any.
“When we won the Games we made a promise to the people of this country and the international community to inspire a generation of young people through sport,” said Tessa Jowell, the shadow minister for the Olympics who sits on the London 2012 board.
“It is important that schools are able to maintain this momentum and help young people develop sport and exercise as a habit that will keep them healthy and fit for the rest of their lives. It is not yet too late for the government to keep the promise that we made and make the most of this Olympic moment.”
In 2010 the education secretary, Michael Gove, threatened to axe £162m in ringfenced funding for a national network of School Sports Partnerships. In the wake of an outcry from athletes, pupils and opposition MPs, David Cameron ordered a partial U-turn, but the ringfenced funding was still cut by 69% and only guaranteed until 2013. It was redirected to a new scheme allowing PE teachers to be released for one day a week. Those working within the system fear that the funding will be withdrawn altogether next year.
The culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has instead sought to focus attention on the School Games, a nationwide intra and inter school competition that proceeds through four levels to an annual final in the Olympic Park. So far, around half of all schools have signed up.
His department has introduced a new policy to focus £1bn invested over five years through grassroots funding body Sport England on 14- to 25-year-olds in a bid to address the precipitous drop off in sports participation when pupils leave school. But there are fears that the impact of the cuts on organised school sport, and on the provision of sport in primary schools, will impact on the amount of sport played by children even before they can benefit from the after-school clubs and better links between schools and clubs promised by the new strategy.
Chris Dunne, the headmaster at Langdon School in east London, which provided some of the children who travelled to Singapore in 2005 when the bid was won, has been highly critical of the decision to slash funding for the school sport partnerships.
“The prime minister and his secretary of state for education, who both regularly lambast state schools for not doing as well as the independent sector in nurturing talent, when it is in fact they who have destroyed the work we were doing to promote a renaissance in sporting achievement, are in my opinion little better than privately-educated hypocrites,” said Dunne, who said the network had helped increase the number of boys at the school playing first class critic from zero to 55 and nurtured the creation of four judo clubs.
According to the FOI responses, in every region of England the number of days worked by PE teachers on release compared with the school sport co-ordinators employed under the old system has more than halved. The worst affected regions are the West Midlands, where there was a 74% decline, the north-east, which decreased by 72%, and Greater London, which declined by 67%.
Clive Efford, the shadow sports minister, said Labour had succeeded in getting over 90% of children participating in two hours of school sport a week under the school sport partnerships network.
“They were the foundation for a national sports strategy that we should be building on,” he said. “It is incredible that David Cameron can complain that too many of our top sports people come from private schools when he is damaging the structure of sport in our state education system.”
The sports minister, Hugh Robertson, who on Tuesday said the budget for a grassroots sports initiative called Inspired Facilities had already distributed £19.4m in lottery money to 377 community projects and revealed the overall budget available had doubled to £30m, argues that it is only under the coalition government that PE had become a mandatory subject.
“You can’t divorce this project from the fact we are trying to deliver it in the middle of a global recession, and that is what led to the issue with School Sport Partnerships. All we can do is play the best hand we’ve got with the card that has been dealt to us,” he said. “I do think we get a lot of stick for cutting School Sport Partnerships and very little praise for increasing the amount sport gets through the lottery, which has safeguarded elite athlete investment, made this sort of thing possible and allowed us to continue with the Whole Sport Plan.”
The Lords science committee also warned in a report published on Wednesday that not enough was being done to improve the nation’s health on the back of the Games. It expressed “disappointment at the lack of joined-up thinking in government” on the potential health legacy from the Games and found that a recent survey of 48 London GP practices showed none were aware of the chief medical officer’s most recent physical activity guidelines.
“Government is failing to act in a consistent way to ensure that the Olympics help us tackle one of our greatest health threats, sedentary lifestyles,” said Lord Krebs, chairman of the Lords Science and Technology Committee.
“The government must take a joined-up approach to sport, physical activity and health to ensure the Olympics deliver a lasting health legacy.”
The chance to create a lasting legacy from Britain’s summer of sport is about to be passed up
Today, Andy Murray becomes the first Briton to walk out on the Centre Court at Wimbledon to compete in a men’s singles final since Bunny Austin in 1938. Whether or not he goes the same way as Austin did all those years ago (he lost – in straight sets to the American Don Budge) it will be a truly great moment for British sport.
In three weeks’ time London will stage the Olympic Games for the first time since 1948. The preparations have gone well and the world’s greatest athletes are about to arrive in our capital from every corner of the globe. The next few weeks will, as David Cameron said in a speech last week, be “simply amazing” for sport in Britain.
Politicians miss few chances to associate themselves with sporting successes, and Cameron is no different. He rushed out a statement within minutes of Murray’s triumph on Friday evening, congratulating him and saying he would be there on Centre Court to cheer him on. That is all well and good. The prime minister was right in his speech last week to stress that “sport can change lives”.
Stars at the Olympics, like those at Wimbledon, can inspire young people to develop their own talents and build their own self-respect, whether they are brilliant or just run-of-the-mill at the games they learn to love. Team sports help bind people and communities together. Sport brings young people out of themselves, away from computer and television screens. It makes them healthy and motivated. A British Wimbledon finalist – champion perhaps? – and British Olympic medallists will be wonderful role models for our young.
But we should not let this country’s political leaders – particularly the current ones – take even the smallest slice of credit for the state of sport in our society just because Andy Murray has done well at Wimbledon or because Mark Cavendish or Rebecca Adlington might end up with gold medals round their necks. In a politically careless section of the same speech, Cameron highlighted the scandalous way in which school sport in this country lets down all but a small privately educated elite, and the very rare state-educated jewels such as Murray or Adlington who succeed despite state school provision, rather than because of it.
The prime minister asked why it was “that in so many schools sport has been squeezed out and facilities run down?” In the next sentence he went on to say: “The result is that independent schools produce more than their fair share of medal winners… and too many children think taking part just isn’t for them.”
Indeed they do. Colin Moynihan, chairman of the British Olympic Association, told this newspaper last year that it was “unacceptable” that at the last Olympics, in Beijing in 2008, 50% of British medal winners came from private schools, despite the fact that the independent sector accounts for only 7% of pupils. The ratio this time is unlikely to be hugely different. Just as privately educated pupils go on to dominate top positions in our politics, our media and our professions, so they dominate much of our sport – a phenomenon the education secretary Michael Gove described recently as “morally indefensible”.
So what has Cameron’s government done to narrow the class divide in our sporting provision? Having built his leadership of the Tory party around the idea of a “big society”, did Cameron think of boosting sport in schools and communities to help make sense of that mission? Did he make sport more central to school and community life and mobilise the millions of big society volunteers, those parents and sports lovers who adore running teams and clubs, in a national, linked-up sporting effort, connecting clubs to schools and schools to clubs? Did he insist that private schools do more to share their luscious playing fields and flash sports centres with state schools, which often have none, in return for earning their tax perk of charitable status? No. Not a bit of it.
One of the first acts of his government saw Michael Gove withdraw the entire budget of £160m a year in funding for school sports partnerships, a network created by Labour under which state schools shared sports and PE teachers and co-ordinated activity to ensure that all pupils had decent minimum levels of expert sporting tuition. If a primary school had no PE teachers, they would be lent one.
The partnerships were working well in most areas, and would have allowed the country to boast a real legacy from the Olympics after decades which saw school playing fields sold off. But Gove thought the partnerships were about state control and bureaucracy. He was suspicious because they were set up by Labour. He never visited a single partnership before announcing he would close the lot. The vast majority of headteachers were appalled. Gove was forced into a partial U-turn that saved the scheme for a year or so – but now all funding has gone.
In their place Jeremy Hunt, the culture secretary, furious at Gove’s destruction, created the “school games” in a great hurry to plug the gap – an annual Olympic-style sports competition for schools. While much effort has gone into getting the project going, it is deeply flawed as a national model because many schools, particularly primaries, do not have the facilities or staff to allow them to take part. Just 14,000 out of more than 24,000 schools participated this year – when the intention was that all of them would. Fewer than half the schools in London signed up. For the rest, nothing. No school games.
What kind of a national system of school sport is that? Cameron replies that £1bn is being put into youth sport and that more school sports clubs are being set up. It is true that much good work is being done, but the crucial inter-school structures that were being created and that were introducing children from primary schools upwards to sports they would otherwise never enjoy, are now non-existent across large parts of the country.
In 2006 Sebastian Coe, the chairman of London 2012, said: “Winning the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games represents the single biggest opportunity in our lifetime to transform sport and participation in sport in the UK forever. We have a unique opportunity that we must not squander to increase participation in sport, at community and grassroots levels as well as elite levels; from the school playground to the winner’s podium.”
The brilliant Andy Murray and our medal winners in weeks to come will inspire our youngsters no end. But they deserve more than inspiration. All pupils – not just those whose parents can afford to buy them the best – deserve a school sports legacy from 2012. It is a disgrace, and a tragedy for them, that more has not been done to provide one.
I support Michael Meacher’s call for a public inquiry into the Consulting Association blacklisting conspiracy (Letters, 25 April). It was documents disclosed at my employment tribunal against the construction giant Carillion that brought to light the probable collusion by police and/or security services in the first place. I was granted a court order to view the entire unredacted database, and it was immediately apparent that information on some blacklisting files could only have been supplied by officers of the state. In my opinion, the most probable source for some of the surveillance intelligence appears to be undercover police officers who infiltrated leftwing and anti-racist groups (as previously exposed by the Guardian). Until a full public inquiry takes place, it will be impossible to get to the truth of how and why this information about union activists made its way on to an illegal blacklist run by private building firms.
Blacklist Support Group
• I don’t think it is just the government we have to fear over data-sharing (Report, 24 April). A friend who got a supermarket credit card she has never used received a letter from the supermarket including the following paragraph: “We have recently reviewed the information we hold for you and we’ve noticed that you may be Politically Exposed [PE], or related to, or associated with, someone who is. A [PE] person is someone who is in a position of influence or power, for example [an MP].”
To our knowledge she is not PE, but we wonder why they think she is, and how they got their information.
Ringmer, East Sussex
£90 – £140 per day:
A popular and over-subscribed 11-18 school in Warrington requires a temporary teacher of PE to cover a staff absence until the end of the academic year. The position is part-time and due to commence at the beginning of January. The successful applicant wo