I was asked by the Guardian after tweeting them on the subject to write a full response to statements made yesterday by the Prime Minister about sport in schools, you can read what he said here
I orginally tweeted this back – Tweet
I was then asked to write a longer piece demonstrating my view more this was published on the Guardians blog – view here
Some of my original article wasn’t added to the blog however I wanted to share it for all to see so here is my full response – Would love to hear your views on this:
After comments made today, I can’t help but think that David Cameron has this issue totally wrong. At this point, I must state that I fully support competition in sport and feel children experiencing competition is vital in building essential life skills such as determination, courage and willpower that they can apply in many different areas as they get older. What I don’t agree with is that we need a complete change in culture and purely focus on competition.
I work at a primary school that has a flourishing sports programme due to the dedication of members of staff devoting so much of their own time running clubs, hosting events and coaching children outside the school day. This has been happening for many years, on top of their other responsibilities. We have been very successful in numerous local and national competitions but our main achievement is boasting that every child represents the school in some sort of competition before they leave. Personally I don’t feel myself or my colleagues could do anymore to provide the children with opportunities to excel in sport. Why do we do it? Well, personally I feel my duty as a teacher is to provide children with as many opportunities to excel and find a talent in whatever subject. What sport does more than a lot of other subjects is that it provides children with a healthy lifestyle and the right values to live by. It also gives children personal life long memories. Just look at the Olympics, some have memories of winning a medal, whereas some will forever remember just competing and doing their best.
What the PM is blinded by is the fact that one of the main reasons we are winning so many golds at the Olympics is down to the previous government providing opportunities for all children to play, enjoy and love sport despite ability. Since the cut in school sport funding, the opportunities are deteriorating for children to experiment with different and lesser known sports. In the past, funding was available for coaches to come into school to provide opportunities for all children to try different sports, they would then organise local competitions and make links for children to then join a local club. In my current school, we are very lucky to have teachers who have expertise in various sports. I feel I have a strength in sports I play or played when I was younger and feel confident in coaching these sports. With previous school sport funding I was able to give children opportunities to try sports outside my ‘comfort zone’ so to speak. Sports such as hockey, lacrosse, and athletics were just a few examples of various sports children at our school attempted before then joining local clubs if they had enjoyed and wanted to pursue further. This kind of approach was thriving in many local schools however since the cut in funding it has become more difficult given that schools have so many other priorities and issues.
I feel this has a knock on effect onto the level of competition in schools, I feel the only way you can get the best is by competing in numbers. Imagine if becoming an Olympic gold medallist is the pinnacle, underneath are national championships, followed by regional finals, county competitions, borough heats and finally club or school contests. If the gold medallist was never provided with the opportunity to first participate and enjoy a sport at the earliest level before competing and then excelling, he would have never reached that final goal. I believe the reason we have been successful competing as a school is that we have so many children participating in sport, this breeds natural competition between them. At my school we are considered a big school with over 500 pupils and often comments are made about this being the reason why we have such strong teams, however, I know of other local schools with just as many children which do not compete on the same level as we do, even though most of the children live on the same estate. I feel this is down to our school encouraging as many children to enjoy and play sport. Imagine if I had a class of 30 and had to pick a team of 7 with only 10 regularly participating in sport, the chances of picking a team stronger than a class who has 30 children regularly participating is slim.
If the government focuses purely on competition they are restricting the possibility of finding the next generation of Gold medallists. To focus purely on competition from a young age breeds an elitist mentality that would only provide children who display potential at that moment to succeed. The government should focus on providing children with as many opportunities to try as many different sports as possible. Before competition is even spoken about children should be given the chance to build a passion for a sport and want to become the best at it. I look at many of the Olympic winners and feel before acquiring the will to win they must have had a passion for the sport they compete in. Children should be coached to become the best they can be and not to just win. I have seen so many makeshift coaches/parents put unnecessary pressure on children because they want to win. This can create a negative fear within children and restrict their opportunity to improve and better themselves as athletes. People don’t realise that winning isn’t an instant occurrence. An analogy would be to compare it to how we would teach Numeracy in schools, no child would excel from just sitting test after test after test. Instead, they are taught numerous methods, play games and learn skills needed to solve a problem, they find a method they feel most confident with and then can approach a test without the fear of failing.
Having watched the success from these games it has made me question whether the government will reconsider providing more funding, as if it stays the way it is, we are going to really be disappointed and even embarrassed at the next few Olympics. Just take the examples of Austrailia, who before the Sydney games, pumped money into school sport in preparation to make the 2000 Olympic games a successful and memorable one for the country, it worked, they finished with plenty of medals and forth in the medals table. Since then, the funding has been cut because the Olympic memories were no longer current or focused on in the news and they now sit low in the medal tables in this year’s Olympics. I’m pretty sure at that time Austrailia also used the word ‘Legacy.’