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 160.

    I know The Tories have a penchant for selling off school playing fields, so this news wouldn't come as a total surprise to me

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    The selling off sports fields is the biggest red herring ever, as anyone in Physical Education with confirm! But it is this which grabs the headlines whenever childrens' activity levels are portrayed on the tele. Independent schools continue to provide all the things that they hold as important, State schools must perform to the whim of poorly informed politicians and press. As for Mr Gove..well!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    Competitive sport, by it's nature, is not inclusive - only the best are chosen. Whilst I don't doubt it's importance, it's the kids that are excluded from it that probably need the most help in maintaining a reasonable level of activity - walking and cycling with a purpose, energetic dance classes etc all have a place. In fact anything that keeps you off your backside can't be bad!

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    It is pretty much obvious to anyone wiith any experience in PE, that Ofsted have absolutely no idea of what makes a good PE lesson or department. The number of lessons which Ofsted have deemed excellent and which contradict the BAALPA regulations is very concerning.When Teacher training colleges disappeared the rapid decline in teaching standards and positive schooling for our children started!

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    PE at school, competitive sports and general physical activity for wellbeing are three separate things, and try to put them under one heading is counterproductive. I was the fat kid at school who was routinely humiliated, however I now do different forms of exercise happily and regularly. Safe 'bike to school' routes would probably increase physical activity more than 1 hour extra PE per week!

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    Wow. Labour once again show their short term memory. It was barely 3 years ago that they were selling off Sportsfields.

    You have destroyed education, bankrupted the country, opened the immigration floodgates, and wrecked our armed forces.

    How anyone votes for Labour is beyond me. "One Nation"? One impoverished Nation more like!

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    141 Pete. Agree, I was at school then, with no H & S. Some teachers lived quite some distance away, more dedication. We use to slide on ice in playground, play in snow, If you fell over you just got up again. You didnt sue for own accident. I know people in Aberdeen, last week 6 inches of snow but schools kept open, they close here even with a sprinkle. Many staff even who could walk just wont.

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    Physical Education now experiences all sorts of problems, I believe. Most importantly is the very poor training received by the majority of specialist teachers entering the subject. It seems that, with male candidates in particular, the fact that they can 'play a bit of football' seems to be qualification enough. But it isn't! Poor subject leadership, poor school leadership must take the blame!

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    While most kids have more than one piece of electronic jewellery to while away their time, and it's cool to do so, they'll more than likely to chose this option, other than a quick game of footy in the playground. If they're given the choice between, let's say, a nice crunchy salad, or a yummy cheese-burger & chips, I know what most kids will choose.
    So we'll have to get used to expanding kids.

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    Can we please stop this "must be a Daily Mail reader" rubbish. It's quite pathetic. I've never read the paper in my life, but am instantly accused of such if I have the audacity to have a different view from others on HYS.

    If everyone accused of being a Mail reader, actually was a Mail reader, then the Mail would be the world's biggest selling paper!!!

    So please stop the sad cliches and grow up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    33. steve
    "From 2001 to 2009 the Labour government sold off 139 sportsfields! why do they continue to spit out lies like shelling peas?
    10,000 playing fields were disposed of between 1979 and 1997 when the Conservatives were in power"

    Relevance? Everyone knows they sold loads of playing fields. The point is that Labour is barely any better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    There should be a requirement for two and a half hours (30 mins per day) per week of moderate level fitness training in the school curriculum. Some, but not all should include team sports.

    In my not so humble opinion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    Labour sold off fields yrs ago,long before Gove.Another example of Their short memory. I worked at a swimming pool when Labour had their "no one must be last in anything" policy,made swimming races meaningless. This should not be a "school" responsibilty, it can be started with parents taking kid/kids for walks, an added bonus is hopfully they will show them nature & talk with them making a bond

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    If all kids are to be encouraged to take up sports, schools should offer a range of activities rather than just a few- focussing on competitive sports could alienate the ones who aren't very good, and they could be put off activities for life

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    While emphasis is on examination and test results sport will suffer because the timetable is overcrowded. Free after school clubs with sports trained supervisors would be a better bet. However if Ministers could just leave schools with time to implement one strategy before demanding change to something else it would improve education. Please keep education in the hands of education specialists

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    Politicians love to kick this one around (forgive the pun) but they never have the answers. First PE should be fun and include fitness education and elements such as dance, aerobics, swimming etc. Of course it needs money and professionals to teach and encourage a love not hate realtionship of sport and fitness and it needs along term commitment from Govt. So there is no chance then!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    140. Worcester Man
    I wish Labour would stop coming out with issues that were just as bigger problem when they were in power as they are now. If they win the next election I doubt anything will change.
    You may be right but these are important issues that have to be raised by an Opposition.

    We can live in hope that new Leadership and public pressure means they deliver their promises next time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    You don't need to be fit to do an McJob, and by taking away the aspiration of University and a career most people at State Schools will spend their working lives frustrated in dead end jobs. They won't be able to afford a pension so were they to live to 70 they would be a drain on the state as they would want their pension. This is what the Tories think.

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    I was a member of a prestigious gym owned by the Nuffield group. As well as exercising to your hearts content, you could also satisfy your nutritional requirements with cakes, coke and coffee. The point is PE should be fun, its should also be part of a bigger picture of good health. Commercial pressure usurps all other considerations when profits come first. Well done guys, I left last month.

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    when i was at school 60 years ago we did PE outside whatever the weather. less injuries to us than now, but then we did not have health and safety get in the way. If the schools stayed open when we have a flake of snow falling the pupils would have the time for PE. The teachers say they cant get to work sad the rest of the country struggles in.


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