Miller fails to explain post-Olympic school sport slump – or how it’ll be reversed

Culture secretary Maria Miller was questioned by MPs on the Olympic legacy today, specifically the decline in school sport participation.


Culture secretary Maria Miller was questioned by MPs on the Olympic legacy today, specifically the decline in school sport participation.

On Monday, a survey (pdf) of parents revealed 81 per cent said the amount of sport and PE on offer to their children had stayed the same or declined since the Games, with 54 per cent saying their children received less than two hours’ PE and sport lessons a week – despite the evident enthusiasm engendered by London 2012. Fifteen per cent of parents say their son or daughter has taken up a new sport in school and 12 per cent say their child has tried a new sport outside of school.

Shadow minister Clive Efford asked:

“The Chance to Shine survey, published this week, shows that the majority of parents that were surveyed (54%) say their children played less than two hours of sport and PE per week since the Olympics. Participation in sport in school is on the way down. The PE & Sport Survey published in 2010 told us that over 90% of schoolchildren were doing sport in schools.

“If we are to have any chance of instilling a sporting habit for life in our young children we are going to have to start in schools. Can the Minister tell us what they intend to do to monitor what is going on in our schools?”

With Miller replying:

“The Honourable Gentleman’s absolutely right, we have to instill that habit of sport at the earliest stage, and I share his concern about participation levels – I’ve said before, particularly amongst young people. We will be looking carefully at the findings from the Chance to Shine survey.

I’ve already talked to him and other Members about the School Games, and the fact that 50 per cent of schools are already participating in that, and that we’ve got a billion pounds going through our Youth Sports Strategy to support further participation so I hope he will welcome all of those facts.”

Watch it:

Earlier, former Labour sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe also quizzed her on the lack of monitoring of school sport participation after the government’s decision to abolish the School Sport Survey in 2010, to which she claimed the new School Games “has done so much not only to improve the participation of girls in sport, but also to help more disabled children be involved as well”.

The reasons for Miller’s constant referencing of the School Games – which aren’t even in the remit of DCMS – and lack of explanation for the drop in participation (despite the rise in enthusiasm) and abandonment of monitoring are clear. She knows full well the reason. Everyone knows. The catastrophic decision to slash funding and degrade School Sport Partnerships – the effects of which are now being all too painfully felt.

As Paul Gash, head of PE at Oak Tree primary school in Notthingham, said:

“There’s so much more we could do if we had the funding.”

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