School sport at risk, says Labour

Children running race Labour wants "tough" action to boost sport and PE in schools

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Labour says the government has risked "salami slicing" school sport by abolishing a requirement that all pupils do at least two hours PE a week.

The party is calling for "tough action" to deliver a schools' sport legacy to match the success of the Olympics.

It says recent data suggests just more than about half of children do this much exercise, down from 90% in 2010.

The government said it was putting competitive sport at the heart of the new national curriculum.

In a new action plan, launched ahead of Sunday's BBC Sports Personality of the year final, Labour calls for the two-hour a week of PE requirement to be reinstated.

Field protection

It argues that the government's reducing of protection for school playing fields has also risked damage to pupils' physical education.

The plan calls for Ofsted to focus more closely on inspecting sport provision in all schools including academies and free schools. This would include looking at outdoor facilities and checking how many hours of sport each school provides for pupils.

Start Quote

"The two-hour target was never a rule. It was an unenforceable aspiration that schools were free to ignore”

End Quote Department for Education

The party says that in 2010 figures from the School Sport Survey, which has since been abolished, showed that 90% of children did two hours of sport each week.

It compares this with figures from a poll of parents published last month by the Chance to Shine campaign which suggested that 54% thought their children did less than this each week. Some 81% said the amount of school PE on offer had stayed the same or dropped since the Games.

A Department for Education spokesman said: "The two-hour target was never a rule. It was an unenforceable aspiration that schools were free to ignore.

"We are freeing teachers from such unnecessary targets and paperwork which take up too much time better used in the classroom or at the running track."

'Competitive' culture

He said the government was "putting competitive sport at the heart of the new school curriculum" as well as extending the School Games and spending £1bn on youth sport over the next five years.

Tim Lamb of the Sport and Recreation Alliance said the two hours a week target should be the "bare minimum", adding that despite many outstanding initiatives school sport was "an issue still in need of a great deal of attention".

"With recent reports stating that one in three children leaving primary school are either classed as obese or overweight, how many more startling figures about the health of the youngest section of our population do we need to hear before something is done?"

Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg said: "Getting the next generation into the habit of staying physically active throughout their lives starts in our schools. As well as discovering the Olympic champions of the future, school sport can improve health, wellbeing and academic attainment."

He also said the government had scrapped the school sport survey to hide the damage its policies were doing to school sports and PE.

Clive Efford, the shadow sports minister, added that he would be canvassing views on a national sports strategy at a series of regional summits: "Following the Olympics and Paralympics there is a great deal of enthusiasm for sport, but we lack the structure to deliver this at community level."

A spokeswoman for Ofsted said that its schools inspectors did not look at every subject in detail "for this reason, Ofsted also carries out national curriculum subject surveys and publishes a range of triennial reports including those for PE".


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  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    And this from a government when in power dumbed sport and achievement in sport. Remember the last gov stance was there are no winners in case we offended the lazy, sold off our sports field and dumbed down our kids education so much they could barley read and write when they left school.

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    72. MrAngryGuildford

    The first thing needing doing is telling the mamby-pamby Health & Saftey and the PC brigades to stay away.
    How original - it's now mamby rather than namby.
    Your Daily Mail anecdotes has been recycled a million times.
    The issue is about selling off assets and most would agree that both parties have followed in the footsteps of she who sold large swathes of UK PLC.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    @68 'sleeping_southerner'
    Ouch - thanks for that sharp riposte.

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    35. Anglerfish "A comment based entirely on the Daily Mail view of sport in schools with absolutely no connection with reality at all. Still why let facts get in the way of an ill informed opinion."

    1. Have you ever been to a primary school sports day??
    2. Source of facts - 2 kids at school, 3 relatives who are teachers.
    3. Please offer facts rather than abuse.
    4. Never read Mail in my life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    A majority of comments here are from those with opposing political views trading insults and apportioning blame, which clogs up debating the issue. There is a plethora of unhealthy, fat, lazy kids, who urgently need exercise. Any discussions aimed at improving this must be welcomed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    32.Rebecca Riot

    You don't say, or provide any evidence for, your suggestion that the last election was "dishonest" or "unfair". Do you deem it unfair because your preference failed?

    Would you have Moribund and Balls (architects of our current plight) back in charge?

    The people who bothered to vote did not give us a clear winner. Brown tried a coalition with the LibDems and failed.

    Nuff said

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    Nothing new here. Take handball as an example. After the Olympics there is massive interest even tho team GB didn't do well. Teams being created in schools all over the country but because we didn't do well in the Olympics, funding for the game has been cancelled.
    This Gov and to be fair the previous one, haven't a clue about real life for ordinary people and don't appear to care either.

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    I think the Country has more serious issues than if little Johnny and Jane play football/tennis/netball etc.

    And besides which we have no sports fields for them to play on, the Government Sold them all.

    See Joined up Government, take sports of the Curriculum and sell the fields.


  • Comment number 72.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    Hmmm, Ed, why didn't you tackle this when you were in power - there were 13 years available - a bit forgetful are you?

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    Re 55 - I was just putting together something similar as your comment but you beat me to it. I note the instant negative rating, but you are right PA is for life. Judging by the level of adult obesity, CVD, diabetes I would summise PE was a waste of time for most. I hated PE, discovered PA at 35, now 50 and could out do a lot of 20 year olds at our gym, you just need to find what works for you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.


    Whatever happened to doing things in the interests of the children, rather than commercial or a narrow academic only agenda?

    Not just the children. What about doing things in the interests of the people? What about listening to what the people want?

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    I'm sure there are legions of adults who felt the same about the school play or Maths and English etc. Should we just give up?

    Also Zumba and Yoga have been included in Schools for quite some time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    hay tories check out real facts not your lies
    10,000 school playing fields sold under the Tories between 1979-97
    Labour did improve things with the 1998 Act that slowed school sales
    total sales under labour
    1999: 42
    2000: 31
    2001: 21
    2002: 24
    2003: 16
    2004: 13
    2005: 11
    2006: 8
    2007: 19
    2008: 11
    2009: 16
    Nowhere near the tories lies or the amount they have sold off in 2 years!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    No wonder we have a child obesity problem, Joined up Government might actually associate this with the lack of exercise and increase the number of P.E. activities for children.
    In my last year at school we had three periods of PE in the gym,one period of swimming and all of Wednesday afternoon for Sport and we still managed to get good Education. Whats so difficult now ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    I left secondary school 4 years ago, and honestly, compulsory P. E. made me miserable. It was the wrong environment for me and put me off the kinds of sports I was made to do there, in a big way. In my own time, I was, and still am, a keen horse rider and swimmer, but school sport very nearly put me off the latter too. Yes you will encourage some, but you'll certainly disillusion others too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    "10,000 playing fields were disposed of between 1979 and 1997 when the Conservatives were in power"

    10,000 exactly? Funnily enough, it was 5,000 just a few years ago.

    It's pure guesswork, but apparently that's good enough for Labour.

  • Comment number 63.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    Listen out for news items when people say "schools should teach more about...". This year I've heard it said about managing finances; sport; drugs education; languages and so on. Whenever politicians talk about schools and education you can be sure schools and education are the last things THEY are interested in. They love having a political football to kick.

    Shameless charlatans!

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    We could trade party-political past discrepancies, perceived iniquities and lack all day to no avail. How does what happened in the past impact on what needs to be done now, other than perhaps defining the present position historically? Nothing was ever improved by endlessly apportioning selective notions of blame. Exercise is needed within the curriculum above competitive sport in my view.


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