8:00am Saturday 11th August 2012
By Barry Nelson
AS the nation prepares to celebrate the end of a hugely successful Olympics this weekend, the Prime Minister was last night engulfed in a furious row over the Games’ sporting legacy.
Tomorrow night’s closing ceremony will bring the curtain down on a record-breaking fortnight of unprecedented success for Britain’s athletes.
But David Cameron was yesterday forced to defend the scrapping of targets for the amount of sport children play in school. He said some teachers had met the targets by making children do “sports”
such as “Indian dance”.
That prompted a furious response from teachers and unions, who said the Government’s indifference to school sports threatened to tarnish the Olympic’s golden legacy.
The Prime Minister has come under fire for ditching a requirement on schools to offer pupils at least two hours a week of sport and for scrapping School Sports Partnerships, which brought together sports clubs and schools.
Sports lecturer Ian Whyte, from Sunderland University, urged the Government to restore the partnerships and backed Boris Johnson’s call for primary school children to have at least two hours of physical exercise a day.
Mr White, who was involved in the School Sport Partnerships, said: “I think it is rich that David Cameron is criticising teachers and then cutting away something that seemed to be working well.
The School Sport Partnerships provided the link between schools and sports clubs.”
Mr White urged the Prime Minister to restore the partnerships and introduce a minimum of two hours physical exercise a day for primary school pupils.
“Research has shown there are major benefits, in and out of school,” he said.
“Most children aged one to five tend to be active given the chance, but we take them to school and sit them behind a desk all day.”
Peter King, headteacher of Corporation Road Primary School, in Darlington, and the local branch secretary for the National Association of Headteachers, slammed the decision to remove the two hours’ requirement and funding for local school sports coordinators.
“Local coordination is the key to success in bridging school and local club participation and in Darlington helps to ensure regular interschool competitions in many sports,” he said.
“David Cameron has also suggested that state schools are not providing enough Olympians because we do not hold competitive sports days.
“I am not sure where he gets this information from because even if this were universally true, it would not be a determining factor.
“In our school, we hold competitive races on our sports day, for example, with all children required to participate and with most points awarded for first, second and third.
“But as great as this is, it does not lead to future gold medallists alone.
“What we do now need to ensure is that there is full awareness of local sports clubs, links between these clubs and schools, ways to make out-of-school participation affordable for more parents and, perhaps most difficult, educating parents to be a little tougher as their children inevitably go through phases of losing interest.”
Earlier, Mr Cameron said: “The trouble we have had with targets up to now, which was two hours a week, is that a lot of schools were meeting that by doing things like Indian dance or whatever, that you and I probably would not think of as sport, so there is a danger of thinking all you need is money and a target.
“If that was the solution, we would have solved the problem by now.”
The Prime Minister said pupils should be doing as much sport in schools as possible, and denied selling school playing fields.
He said: “As well as the facilities and the money, what we really need is a change in culture in our schools and in society that says sport is good, competitive sport is good, school games are good.”
© Copyright 2001-2013 Newsquest Media Group