Sunday, 11 July 2010

Returning competition to our schools

The Government recently announced that it was going to introduce an Olympic-style sports competition to our schools, following a successful pilot project here in Kent. This will not only help return competitive sports to our schools, ridding our classrooms of the "everyone's a winner" culture, but it will also increase participation in activities (and yes I do mean more than just traditional field sports).

I was invited on to Politics Show South East to talk about the poor participation rates in Kent and Medway but, and I know there will be huge sighs of disappointment, it is no longer available on iplayer! The point of the piece was that a report was published recently showing the levels of participation in 3 hours of PE and out of hours sport per week amongst year 7-11 pupils. The national average is 50% and yet Kent and Medway were below average, and sadly Medway is the lowest in the country with 26%. Your Medway carried the story HERE.

The curriculum is under huge pressure and I sympathise enormously with schools trying to fit everything in but I would like to see a slimming down of the curriculum, concentrating on core subjects, so that inter and intra-school competitions can return into state schools. The Government's school sports competition helps, as does local initiatives such as the mini-world cup, and Kent County Council's School Games which the Government's competition is modelled on. I also think that support for grassroot programmes is essential and as I said on the TV, this shouldn't just mean football, rugby and cricket. Activities such as dance and gymnastics have become more popular recently, partly thanks to the success of troupes on talent shows, and they deserve as much support as football.

Of course with money being tight, there will be a reliance on volunteers and already the Government has made it clear it will support the army of coaches, managers, trainers and others required to help improve participation. Whatever happens though, policymakers locally and nationally must remember that sport is about more than just having fun, it provides good discipline, improves communication and teamwork skills and is proven to help concentration levels. A healthy body does indeed equal a healthy mind and if we are to improve academic standards then a good dose of sporting activity will certainly help.

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