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 100.

    While it's important for children to stay active I see no reason for them to be forced to do a sport. I know from when I was at school that the required PE was never particularly good exercise. The kids have to be self-motivated, otherwise making them attend PE class will not keep them active.
    Labour trying to make something out of nothing here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    Milliband and Balls might find it difficult to resurrect school sports since they supported Brown's massive sell off of school playing fields and sports grounds. It might be possible to compuslorily buy back any that have not yet been built on by the speculators at a notional price...but, like many other Labour follies, Brown's vandalism is probably irreversible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    Remember Labour sold off playing fields and also stated that competition was a bad things as children were not able to deal with coming second - just like the Labour party???

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    When I were a kid, and when at school, we had football, netball and an annual school sports day. That was it. But we were still generally fitter than kids are now.
    There again, we didn't have computers, or the choice of food available that they have now. We got school dinners. You either ate them, or you didn't, and the nearest thing to fast food, was the local chippy.
    Looks like fat kids then.

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    Bit Rich coming from Labour, you know, them being the beaurocrat loving, health and safety obssessed party that CAUSED schools to just not bother taking the risk with sport.

    It was LABOUR that created the culture where if a child gets injured playing rugby, the school can get a hefty penalty and even sued.

    Mind you, Tories have done nothing to fix it.

    Clowns to the Left, Jokers to the right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    All down to the last Labour governments inadequacies I believe!

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    When i was at school many years ago, we had a sports day every year, we had p.e nearly every day, and after school if we were good we competed against other schools and if we were very good we were selected to compete for our county against other counties.
    Today the sports day has vanished along with many sports fields, how many schools still have a gym ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    schools are having funding cut yet still have to undergo ofsted inspections where the bias is toward academic sucsess so to meet their requirements the schools need money so their playing fields are sold to developers to meet their needs blame targets and tory private interference

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    Very rich from the party with the "everyone has to win" philosophy

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    Getting active is an essential ingredient for learning they go hand in hand so to reduce time spent getting active is ridiculous - the focus should be on a wide variety of fun games and activities so that kids have a go at many diverse and different elements from ballroom to rock climbing!

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    Would teachers these days be prepared to spend their own time on out or hours sports without payment?

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    This is good Pot to Kettle stuff.... The last Labour Government was responsible for the wholesale sale of School playing fields. To make comments like this is incredulous.

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    My kids went to a primary school with no field (never had one) but we used a local sports club field, and sport was available for all who wanted it.
    Indoor sport was also plentiful in the school hall.

    Having no field just makes it a bit harder: but where there is a will, there is a way.

    The key is to have teachers, parents and children who want to do sport.
    Without that, fields are irrelevant

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    True - but there's no money in it and limited political capital to be made from it.

    Agree up to a point. The sell off ,however, is a tangible indicator of the importance that politicians really ascribe to physical activity.

    Gove's free school policy was lighter on detail than Jeremy Hunt's knowledge of what his staff were up to in relation to Leveson.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    I could very easaly blame one or other party for particular actions but lets face it they do what is expedient to meet their aims. At one time that meant selling off school sports fields. If the political expediency became procure more sports fields then that will be done but be clear, the primary reason will NOT be our kids health

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    I am a sport scientist and teach in the education sector and 100% agree that some form of sport needs to be compulsory reinstated into the education system. We're not talking about competitive traditional sports, but some form of fun, social-based activity that will form a lifestyle habit (rather than a lifestyle choice) for the younger populations...

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    1 Hour ago
    From 2001 to 2009 the Labour government sold off 139 sportsfields! why do they continue to spit out lies like shelling peas?

    The actual complete figures are...
    Since 1997, 192 playing fields have been sold out of total of over 20,000 schools (this is compared to an estimated 10,000 between 1979 and 1997).

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    79. Billythefirst "The issue is about selling off assets" Hardly. The issue is whether or not the percentage-time children spend exercising, having fallen, needs addressing or not - and what sports provision achieves, in a culture of obesity, over regular exercise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    The role of a good leader of a country should be to do the greatest good for the greatest number of people.
    I don't think either political party has this idea as a foundation of their policies. I've lost faith in all of them.
    Not help the rich & line things up for their cushy job in Europe after the people kick them out of office for being incompetent.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.


    Good point. Take politics and politicians out of education and let the education establishment determine our children's future education.

    6th Form colleges have the freedom to choose their curriculum and we need to put a framework in place the prevents politicians meddling in things they do not understand.

    This will also stop the see saw effect when a different party comes to power


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