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Coalition hypocrisy – love London 2012, destroy school sport

Posted on 16 November 2010 | 11:11am

Subject to the views of the voters of London, the chances are the Olympics in 2012 will be presided over by David Cameron (Tory), Boris Johnson (Tory), Colin Moyniham (Tory), and Seb Coe (Tory).

Seb has sufficient top human being and greatest British runner of all time qualities to be seen as separate, close to living legend status, but nonetheless there is no escaping the fact that a Games largely delivered by and under Labour will be celebrated by a very Tory top team.

No point bleating. That is what sometimes happens when elections come along the route of long drawn-out major projects. And I am and always have been such a London 2012 fan that I don’t much care who is in charge provided they go well – which they will.

But what we should most definitely be bleating about – far louder than Labour has thus far done – is the disjunction between the coalition’s stated commitment to sport as exemplified by the Games, and what they are doing to school sport.

Labour’s record on school sport was excellent, always accompanied by a Tory-Mail-Telegraph drumbeat of false claims about a decline in access to sports facilities, and lies about opposition to competitive sport in schools.

Labour saw sports participation as a sports policy of course, but also a health policy, a crime policy, a social inclusion policy, an education policy, a family policy. We knew that regular access to sport in school would raise attendance, improve behaviour, develop relationships and help a school’s ethos. It did and continues to do all of those things … but not for much longer.

Central to the policy’s implementation were the School Sports Partnerships which won widespread and deserved praise – and imitation overseas – both for their efficiency and what they did on the ground.

Now, without a mandate, without a proper explanation, and without any seeming awareness of the damage they are doing, the coalition is cutting the £162m funding for all this.

The impact will be felt in every school in the countrty. Well, when I say every, I imagine that Cameron’s old school will still be ok, that the playing fields will continue to flourish and the Wall Game continue to be played. I imagine Wesminster and St Paul’s, which gave us Messrs Clegg and Osborne, will still manage to scrimp together to deliver the best facilities, coaches and trips.

But in the schools used by the many not the few, those schools Cameron, Clegg and Osborne claim to be most motivated by in policy-making,  they have allowed – or possibly ordered – Michael Gove to make a cut that will seriously damage sport and seriously diminish the schools experience for a generation of children.

It is worth bearing in mind every time you see them riding the 2012 bandwagon between now and then and beyond. Worth bearing in mind too that if such a move had been made before the IOC decided on where to locate the 2012 Games, London would not have won the bid in the first place. We won in part on legacy, a legacy through which Mr Gove has now taken a very large axe.

In one of the great contradictions that this coalition is becoming, he says he wants to see more competitive sport in schools. How is that going to happen when the very funds and organisation delivering it are to be chopped?

  • Surreybear

    If sour grapes and bitterness were an Olympic sport you’d be a double gold medalist, you lost get over it,

  • Olli Issakainen

    I do not know what sort of sports facilities British schools usually have, but the school I went in in Finland had the following:
    – outdoor volleyball field
    – outdoor football/Finnish baseball field
    – gym
    – indoor facilities for volleyball, basketball, team handball, tennis and gymnastics

    We could also use the nearby facilities for ice hockey, athletics and swimming. And the school facilities were also available outside school hours. I myself was a member of a weekly basketball group.

  • Sarah Dodds

    I always feel like I am droning on about “my own experiences” here, and I apologise for the self-indulgence. But they are what frame my political views – it’s certainly not the other way round, as in many cases. It is because of what I have seen first hand about what really works well that I joined the Labour party.
    But, after that apology I will carry on anyway…..(that’s politics!)
    I have a rather shy elder daughter of nearly 11. Her early years at school were OK, but she never shone the way we knew she could. But she then discovered football, and that she was bloody good at it. She, to our utter astonishment, joined a football club run by Grimsby Town FC, but run as a partnership with her school. Her coach was a genius called Mark Westerby, and I will be grateful to him until my dying day. She was the only girl for a long, long time. She trained hard, and often won the Player of the Week trophy. When the boys stopped taking the piss, they actually found she was quite a useful little player, and for some reason nicknamed her “Cheesecakes!” (God knows why, ….I have never have worked it out.)
    She is now about to enter high school. She is flying acadamically, representing both her peers on the school council and her school in every sport known to mankind (and few others). She is what the head calls an “examplary pupil.” She is dynamic, confident and we are very, very, very proud. Some of this progress has happened due to her happy home and her wonderful teachers. But I have not the slightest degree of hesitation in saying that her football was the catalyst for so much of her transformation from a sheep to a leader.
    The politics of it stink so much. Heads will be left with no option but to become Acadamies because it will be the only way to meet their pupils’ and staff’s’ needs and desires. Gove has all us educationalists over a barrel. But what the heck, must not be gloomy. At least we’ve all got a little wedding to take our cynical minds off it all now.

    • Robert Jackson

      ….But they are what frame my political views….

      Sarah – that’s the honest way to frame one’s political views.

  • James

    When Team GB did so well at Beijing in 2008, it was not lost on the political media that the Tories had increased spending on sport – Im pretty sure John Major was brought on the Today programme to reap praise. I shouldn’t be too surprised if the media take a similarly balanced view of the 2012 games.

    [Obviously, the flipside would be that any negatives – e.g. a major security threat – could be attributed to the actions of the previous Labour government.]

  • Teresa

    Alastair I’m not on twitter but I read a comment to you from someone called dukesy 12, and my experience is totally different to his. My two youngest boys are 10 and 12 and just love football, my youngest still plays for his Primary School team and my older son did when he was there. My son travels all over the place in their little mini bus, and they do training after school in all weathers, with a really dedicated very enthusiastic manager. They have had tours of the Aston Villa ground organised by the school which they absolutely loved being Villa fans, and have had FA coaches come to the school quite a few times to coach them, and only last week they had an ex Blues player come and train with them, even though he’s a Villa fan, he was still really exited about it. With these cuts will this mean the younger children coming up will miss out on these exiting experiences in the future that children love so much, and would never have the opportunity to do otherwise. I think it’s really sad.

  • Mainser

    Well done Alistair for highlighting this. Like Sarah Dodds I have seen the impact sport has made on kids self-confidence and having the knock on impact on behaviour etc. Unlike Sarah I see it from a coaches point of view and I coach a comparatively minor sport in the shape of squash and because of the solitary nature does seem to attract more challenging kids because they often don’t fit into team sports, particularly football (I am a big football fan so that’s not a criticism of the sport, simply stating the nature of it) My club has been trying for 18 months to get into schools and have managed to get into 3 and having delivered the courses were suddenly deluged with schools wanting to take part because until they actually saw it being delivered they didn’t believe it was possible in a school environment. This has all been achieved through the County Schools Partnership. As a volunteer coach, with a full time job and young children of my own I just don’t have the time or resource to get in touch with every school in the area to try and go and deliver programmes.

    The scrapping of the Youth Sports Trust and the County Schools partnership is a disgrace and frankly an easier target I can’t imagine for Labour and they should be jumping all over that little toad Gove like there is no tomorrow.

  • Anonymous

    “The impact will be felt in every school in the countrty.”

    Which country?

  • William

    What a stupid comment.

  • Nicky

    Great story about your daughter’s blossoming through her love of football – thanks, Sarah. My niece really took to football as well, and went on to study Sports Science at uni. As you and AC say, the current govt’s policies regarding sport absolutely stink. However, being the shameless hypocrites they are they will no doubt take the credit for the success of the Olympics and of British athletes.

    The funding of sport, and its broader benefits that AC described (health, crime reduction, social inclusion and so on) has been invaluable. This is another aspect of Labour’s record that we should be proud of.

    It still gives me the red mist when I think about that speech Nick Clegg gave to the LibDem conference this year when he trashed Labour’s record, giving them no credit at all for their achievements. It was an outrageous travesty of the truth. What a lying Tory toadie that man is.

    I’ve just had the misfortune of hearing Clegg on the radio, simpering on about William and Kate’s wedding. I wish all the best to W & K themselves, they seem perfectly decent young people. However, as you suggest Sarah, the ConDems probably see a royal wedding as manna from heaven to distract people from their woeful shortcomings as a government. I think it will take more than a lovely wedding to do that.

  • s chapman

    What a pathietic,all-too-predictable,tribal blog.I notice you don’t mention what a privileged position you hold in the sports world.I bet you get invites all over the place and access to Sports stars most people only watch on the box – so don’t bang on about privileges – you only did some media work for TB for your privileges.
    Harking on about what school politicians went to is so infantile – who cares in this day and age…playing the class card don’t work mate im afraid so get over it.

  • Richard

    No, Campbell hypocrisy!
    Your memory has deserted you. Read the following:

    Al, ven by your standards this is myopia!

  • David Fraser

    I have worked in PE and Sport development since leaving university in 1996. When I started school sport was run by a hardcore of well meaning volunteers. What they provided was good, but it served only a minority of the student population. The School Sport Partnership (SSP) programme enabled every child to have access to far more high quality school sport than anyone could ever have imagined. The ring fenced funding and targets meant that we had to deliver, and we did. More students accessing high quality PE, Compeition and Leadership. Far greater breadth of activity was offered, students who didn’t like traditional sport were getting involved, the hardcore of students who never took part in PE were finding activities that they loved and that inspired them. In my school we were suddenly teaching Tae Kwon Do, Fencing, Triathlon, Rowing and Cycling where before we had taught only football, rugby, netball and basketball. Students were being given access to sports that they would only have seen on TV or been able to participate in if they had gone to private school.
    A couple of weeks ago Mr Gove scrapped this. Schools are to be given some of the money that funded the programme directly, and targets will be scrapped. Gove says that schools can continue to make this provision for their pupils if they choose to. When suddenly given extra funding my guess is that headteachers (and I do not blame them for this) are going to spend the money on what they are measured on; A* – C grades. The moeny that was ring fenced for sport is now likely to be used coaching D grade children to pass exams.
    The Youth Sport Trust which provided amazing support for school to deliver these programmes has been cut in half. Those students who were engaging in school again through the power of sport have had these opportunities taken away from them. These opportunities are now once again only open to those in private education. Good luck to those students, they are fortunate enough to have parents who can afford to send them to provate school. I do not begrudge them their opportunities. However, the SSP programme levelled the playing field of opportunity for all youg people in sport, and Michael Give has repeated Tory policy by selling off the playing fields again.
    Where will this legacy come from now – and why hasn’t Lord Coe spoken out publicly against this travesty?

  • Shelly Harris93

    all fantastic points; i am currently a sports leader in my partnership and have seen the fantastic work SSPs do; it is truly inspiring. All in all you have written a perfect argument to the cut and I just wated to say thank you for your support of school sports partnerships

  • Gilliebc

    What a spiteful post S Chapman. I think you may be suffering from envy. To say that AC “only did some media work for TB” is something akin to saying that the Romans only built a few foot-paths. As for the “class card” it’s all too obvious that particular system is still alive and kicking in this country, sadly. You only have to look at the Coalition Government’s proposed spending and benefit cuts to see that they are all to do with the ideology of the Tory party and nothing about what would be good for this country’s future and it’s working/middle class inhabitants.

  • James

    The funding is not going to schools it is what it says ….a complete cut! Heads will not have the extra to allocate as they wish.

  • Self-confidence is imo one of the most important characteristics that help us get through life happily and successfully. Any activity that promotes self confidence is vitally important to young people. For those with an interest sport is one of them. Poor decision.

  • s chapman

    Envy is all yours….we must cut public spending and there is nothing you can do about it.
    Its NOT ideology its just plain economic sense what part of that don’t you understand

  • Robert Jackson

    So, SC, we’ll be seeing you actively campaigning for the Royals to pay for the wedding themselves?

    Plain economic sense, after all.

  • Pamo

    Hear, hear!


  • Pam

    Nice one Richard!

    They don’t like it “up em” do they.


  • David Kingston

    Glad you have tackled this one. Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, was talking about this on Radio 5 recently and expressed the hope that schools would see the value in these partnerships and find the money neede to maintain them from their own budgets. So much for protecting schools funding. Those of us involved with schools have long suspected that we will be expected to use mainstream funding to pay for activities previously funded from other sources. Expect more of this as the years go by.

  • Ian Warren

    Alastair – thank you for highlighting the issues fscing SSP’s across the country. I have been managing the scheme in Camden for the last 9 years now and we have made a huge impact on PE and Sport in the Borough. Both myself and my colleagues are fighting to salvage something out of the current Government’s announcement to withdraw funding but need all the help we can get. If you, or anyone else have further suggestions on political lobbying, I would be grateful for any advice. Time is running out for us. School sport, both competitive and non-competitive, sports leadership etc will go back 10 years with these cuts and we will not have an Olympic legacy for schoolchildren after the Summer.

  • Rapunzel

    Way back in the seventies I worked in an extremely challenging primary school. We taught children with severe educational, behavioural, emotional and social problems.
    An enlightened headteacher was well aware of the benefits of sport and other extra curricular activities, primarily as a means of allowing children to succeed and to be praised and rewarded for their achievements. A hard working and committed staff coached children and ferried them around to matches and tournaments both after school and at weekends. Results were announced at weekly assemblies and inter house competitions were held in football, rugby, netball, swimming, athletics and many more sports. The importance of learning how to be both a gracious winner and a generous loser was stressed. For the children, the deal was that they could only represent the school if their behaviour was good, not just during practice and matches, but at all times.
    It worked, and many youngsters who could well have gone “off the rails” thrived, not just on the playing field, but in the classroom as well. Staff saw their efforts rewarded a hundred fold in the attitude of both children and parents towards what the school was trying to do. Win win.

  • arlen Specter and others of the old guard, finally waking up to the fact that the radicals they installed are going to screw the country, destroy democracy …

  • I’m pretty well convinced that in order to win in 2012, we are going to need a coalition of three distinct groups. Those are the Conservatives, the Libertarians, and all of those who don’t yet realize that they are Conservatives or Libertarians. …