World finally wakes up to coalition’s assault on school sport

Fully one month after the scale of the government's cuts to school sport were unveiled, politicians, journalists and sports stars have at long last been stirred into fighting back, the realisation of the horror about to be unleashed finally dawning. As Left Foot Forward reported in October, the Department for Education is scrapping the £162 million PE and Sports Strategy - a strategy which has been proven to work, significantly raising participation in competitive sport.

Fully one month after the scale of the government’s cuts to school sport were unveiled, politicians, journalists and sports stars have at long last been stirred into fighting back, the realisation of the horror about to be unleashed finally dawning. As Left Foot Forward reported in October, the Department for Education is scrapping the £162 million PE and Sports Strategy – a strategy which has been proven to work, significantly raising participation in competitive sport.

In addition, the DfE will abolish the target of five hours’ high-quality sport a week to age 16, the hugely successful network of 450 School Sports Partnerships, and ring-fenced funding for 400 specialist sports academies.

All this despite children’s minister Tim Loughton promising a “school sport revolution” as recently as September.

Yesterday, The Observer led on an apparent split in the Cabinet over the cuts, with Nick Clegg and health secretary Andrew Lansley said to be leading the revolt, concerned about the impact on the Olympic legacy and on the effects on obesity and health.

As well as worries about 2012, there are concerns about the consequences for the 2018 World Cup, which England is bidding to host.

Writing in The Observer, England’s World Cup 2010 keeper David James says:

“Just as with the 2012 Olympics, the buzzword we keep hearing is ‘legacy’. But if the government are to cut sports funding at school level then who will be around to compete in these great facilities?

The 2018 World Cup is still eight years away. That should be enough time to develop a generation of footballers who could challenge for the honours. But it won’t happen by itself, and it certainly won’t happen if we keep taking sports money away from our kids.”

Adding:

“A recent Uefa report revealed that England have just 2,769 Uefa-qualified coaches. Compare that to Spain who have 23,995, Italy 29,420, Germany 34,970 and France 17,588. Our stats are shocking…

“Financially it doesn’t even make sense. Britain is wealthier than countries like Spain and Italy, so why do they have more coaches than us? Clearly it’s not just about having loads of money, it’s about how we direct our resources.

“That’s what I find so troubling about the government’s position at the moment. Surely withdrawing the funding that helps schoolchildren to enjoy sport and exercise only adds to society’s problems?”

Other sports stars have chimed in this morning, Spurs defender Ledley King, former Chelsea and England defender Graeme Le Saux, swimmers Mark Foster and Karen Pickering, and Welsh athlete Iwan Thomas, expressing their disgust in today’s Mirror, while shadow education secretary Andy Burnham hit the airwaves yesterday to defend Labour’s record and call on Michael Gove to think again; the education secretary, however, remains unrepentant.

To recall, in 1997, only 25 per cent of state school pupils had two hours’ PE a week – the figure is now 95 per cent. Schools also now offer a wider range of sports, with the proportion of schools offering sports like tennis, cycling, golf, table tennis, rugby league and rowing up significantly over the past 13 years. There have also been improvements over the past year.

According to the ‘PE and Sport Survey 2009/10‘, from 2008/9 and 2009/10, the proportion of pupils participating in intra-school competitive activities rose from 69% to 78%; regular participation in intra-school competition incresed substantially from 28% to 39%; participation in inter-school competition increased from 44% to 49%; and regular participation in inter-school competition went up from 19% to 21%.

Indeed, on the eve of the election back in May, then Tory shadow sports minister Hugh Robertson acknowledged the errors his party made the last time they were in power and acknowledged Labour’s successes, largely pledging to continue the good work of the past 13 years – as did the Liberal Democrats.

Robertson had said:

“… I don’t deny for a moment that playing fields were sold off. The lottery has been a great success but the government has also increased exchequer funding, which I congratulate them for.”

But there was no mention then of any plans to cut back to quite this extent, insisting they had changed and would “not cut savagely” – though he did promise the much maligned “Olympic-style school sports event”.

As The Guardian’s excellent ‘Inside Sport’ columnist David Conn wrote at the time:

“In that sunshine of May 1997, when fresh-faced Tony Blair’s Labour party swept to its election landslide, his new government pledged as one of its social missions to rebuild a school and community sporting landscape which had come close to withering under 18 years of Conservative rule.

“It is a measure of how much the government has achieved in its 13 years, with £5.5bn invested in community sport and £2.3bn in school sport since 2003, that the Conservatives arrive at tomorrow’s election admitting their past mistakes and promising they have changed…

“Robertson admits the Conservatives’ mistakes before 1997, but argues they have changed, and will not cut savagely.

“Those claims remain to be tested, but the facts, after 13 years, are clear. Unlike the Conservatives, who came to the 1997 election having overseen a ransacking of school and community sport, Labour arrives at this landmark election with a record of investment and improvement to defend.”

How hollow do those claims seem now?

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today. 

39 Responses to “World finally wakes up to coalition’s assault on school sport”

  1. Rosie

    RT @leftfootfwd: World finally wakes up to coalition's assault on school sport: http://bit.ly/d5noIn reports @ShamikDas

  2. Warren Morgan

    RT @leftfootfwd: World finally wakes up to coalition's assault on school sport: http://bit.ly/d5noIn reports @ShamikDas

  3. Juderobinson

    RT @leftfootfwd: World finally wakes up to coalition's assault on school sport http://bit.ly/czHuU2

  4. steve

    RT @leftfootfwd: World finally wakes up to coalition's assault on school sport: http://bit.ly/d5noIn reports @ShamikDas

  5. Shamik Das

    RT @leftfootfwd: World finally wakes up to coalition's assault on school sport: http://bit.ly/d5noIn reports @ShamikDas

  6. Deborah Segalini

    Useful article, with lots of background.
    I just wish the left didn’t have to keep saying “told you so”!

  7. Anon E Mouse

    Shamik – Good article but I’m not too sure if it will affect the 2018 World Cup – I think the press have poisoned that chalice already…

  8. David Dubost

    RT @leftfootfwd: World finally wakes up to coalition's assault on school sport: http://bit.ly/d5noIn reports @ShamikDas

  9. Pam Blundell

    RT @leftfootfwd: World finally wakes up to coalition's assault on school sport: http://bit.ly/d5noIn reports @ShamikDas

  10. Jed Keenan

    I don’t exactly know what this paragraph below means but the low numbers of UEFA qualified football coaches does go a long way to explaining the performances at international level of certain goalkeepers. Naming no James. 😉

    According to the ‘PE and Sport Survey 2009/10‘, from 2008/9 and 2009/10, the proportion of pupils participating in intra-school competitive activities rose from 69% to 78%; regular participation in intra-school competition incresed substantially from 28% to 39%; participation in inter-school competition increased from 44% to 49%; and regular participation in inter-school competition went up from 19% to 21%.

  11. Shamik Das

    It’s not the effect on the bid per se, more the impact on our performance in 2018, wherever it’s staged – where is the next Rooney, Carroll or Hart gonna come from?

    In terms of the bid itself, I think it’s important to draw a distinction between the hatchet-job on Lord Triesmnan, which was unwarranted, and the legitimate Panorama investigation (yet to be broadcast) into corruption. It cannot be acceptable for the bid team to seek to silence the BBC over this – there are some things more important even than winning the bid, like a free press.

  12. Shamik Das

    Jed – it means exatly what it says. The strategy was continuing to deliver results: from 2008/9 to 2009/10, there were more pupils playing intra- and inter-school competitive sport, both seldom and regularly.

  13. Michelle Graham

    RT @leftfootfwd: World finally wakes up to coalition's assault on school sport: http://bit.ly/d5noIn reports @ShamikDas

  14. Olivia Downey

    RT @leftfootfwd: World finally wakes up to coalition's assault on school sport: http://bit.ly/d5noIn reports @ShamikDas

  15. Claire Wright

    RT @leftfootfwd: World finally wakes up to coalition's assault on school sport: http://bit.ly/d5noIn reports @ShamikDas

  16. Mark Koszler

    RT @leftfootfwd: World finally wakes up to coalition's assault on school sport: http://bit.ly/d5noIn reports @ShamikDas

  17. Kate Lewis

    RT @leftfootfwd: World finally wakes up to coalition's assault on school sport http://bit.ly/czHuU2

  18. mitchthemod

    RT @leftfootfwd: World finally wakes up to coalition's assault on school sport http://bit.ly/czHuU2

  19. ukuleleboy

    RT @leftfootfwd: World finally wakes up to coalition's assault on school sport: http://bit.ly/d5noIn reports @ShamikDas

  20. MasterPM

    World finally wakes up to coalition's assault on school sport http://bit.ly/bmVxYq

  21. Sinead Carty

    RT @leftfootfwd: World finally wakes up to coalition's assault on school sport: http://bit.ly/d5noIn reports @ShamikDas

  22. Chorley WAGs

    RT @leftfootfwd: World finally wakes up to coalition's assault on school sport: http://bit.ly/d5noIn reports @ShamikDas

  23. Scrapping School Sport Partnerships - ideology or idiocy? | Left Foot Forward

    […] that the government have cut in their ideological zeal to shrink the state, few have met with the passion and unified outrage that have greeted the £162 million abolition of the School Sport Partnership […]

  24. Jamie Fahey

    http://bit.ly/dDAP6w And an explanation why teens will have more time for intolerant thoughts, not playing sport #cuts #saveschoolsport

  25. Jamie Fahey

    http://bit.ly/dDAP6w And an explanation why teens will have more time for intolerant thoughts, not playing sport #cuts #saveschoolsport

  26. Wikio UK

    (Left Foot Forward) World finally wakes up to coalition’s assault on school sport : http://wik.io/D81G8

  27. A Bolton Deputy

    RT @leftfootfwd: World finally wakes up to coalition's assault on school sport: http://bit.ly/d5noIn reports @ShamikDas

  28. L DTUC

    RT @leftfootfwd: World finally wakes up to coalition's assault on school sport http://bit.ly/czHuU2

  29. Paula Pearson

    RT @leftfootfwd: World finally wakes up to coalition's assault on school sport: http://bit.ly/d5noIn reports @ShamikDas

  30. Sarah Wenham

    RT @leftfootfwd: World finally wakes up to coalition's assault on school sport: http://bit.ly/d5noIn reports @ShamikDas

  31. margaret savage

    World finally wakes up to coalition's assault on school sport …: The strategy was continuing to deliver result… http://bit.ly/gi18U2

  32. Spir.Sotiropoulou

    RT @leftfootfwd: World finally wakes up to coalition's assault on school sport http://bit.ly/czHuU2

  33. Mr. Sensible

    The government’s whole education policy, not just in this area is in disarray.

    I have given my views on the government’s commitment to sport in response to the other article on this yesterday.

    BTW on our World Cup performence Shamik, even if the youth system was working properly, with the way the Premier League is going (different subject entirely) would they get in to the first teams?

  34. mike hartley

    Gove’s changes here are purely about ideology. He barely looked at what SSPs did.

    He is playing a similar line with his attack on the historic role of universities in teacher education: http://etonmess.blogspot.com/2010/11/teacher-training-right-way.html

    …it’s all about getting back at ‘lefty’ HE.

  35. Surf Skate

    RT @musikcommunity: World finally wakes up to coalition's assault on school sport http://bit.ly/bmVxYq

  36. Miliband urges Cameron to "overrule" Gove's school sport cuts | Left Foot Forward

    […] in the ‘Times 2’ section of this morning’s Times (not available online), joined the chorus of sports stars expressing their disquiet at the cuts. He asked: “How could such a move make sense with […]

  37. M. Bourne

    Whatever the future of SSPs, the annual PE and Sport Survey that goes with it needs to be thoroughly overhauled, especially that section which deals with club-school links.
    I have challenged the statistic to do with school links with cricket clubs in each of the last five years. On each occasion the former Department for Children, Schools and Families and its Minister, Iain Wright, have rejected my claims and all the evidence to show that the statistic is ridiculously high. The last survey recorded that 61% of all state schools (i.e. 13,000) had links with cricket clubs. Even my own (Labour MP) had no success with his own Government.
    There are perhaps no more than 6,500 ECB affiliated cricket clubs. Of these, only around 1,500 are eligible to have links with schools. The majority of these schools already have links with schools by being focus clubs or via the Chance to Shine project: the SSPs have nothing to do with establishing these links. Even if they had, it would mean each club having links, on average, with nine schools!! I would wager that the true figure is below 10%
    My own enquiries show that schools do not understand the definition laid down in the survey; that hardly any school had signed a proper agreement with a cricket club; that nearly all cricket club denied having links with schools and threw in a few expletives when past survey statistics were mentioned.
    There’s a lot more I could add. But anyone – even those with little or no knowledge of cricket or cricket clubs – would not take long to conclude that something was wrong with such survey statistics. It seems that the past Government feared that the revelation of such a gross error would jeopardise the validity of all statistics in the survey. Third party independent scrutiny of PE and Sport Surveys is essential.

  38. Will the Tories follow up their praise for Wiggo with investment in cycling? | Left Foot Forward

    […] World finally wakes up to coalition’s assault on school sport 22 Nov […]

Leave a Reply