Michael Gove, the Government’s Education Secretary yesterday made the expected announcement that his department is to do a U-turn on Schools Sports Partnerships.
Or did he?
Looking behind the headlines, what Mr Gove has actually announced amounts to little more than a stay of execution, a temporary extension of funding while the fuss dies down or, in his words; “…..I’m pleased to be able to confirm some funding for school sports partnerships during this transition. But I’m looking to PE teachers to embed sport and put more emphasis on competitions for more pupils in their own schools and to continue to help the teachers in local primary schools do the same…..”
The transition to which he refers is that from School Sports Partnerships to some, as yet undefined, new system in which schools will be funded to release one PE teacher for one day a week to promote pupils’ participation in PE and sporting activities.
In my 2nd December blog I suggested that the likely u-turn would beg the bigger question of how to we then do things better? However, instead of returning us to that point, Mr Gove has returned to a temporary place half way back, not so much how do we improve the model but more how far back can we take the model to dupe the public into believing the Government has listened while they decide what alternative they can come up with.
It owes more to Big State than to Big Society. Not only have they not listened, they are trying to pretend they have.
Of course, one thing that MUST happen if sports development is to again become a meaningful term in the UK is the creation of a fully, vertically integrated strategy for the development of sport. Trying to run school sport separately from main stream sport smacks only of horizontal integration at best and with little evidence of ANY strategy from either Department for Education (DfE) or DCMS it is not even that.
Mr Gove has yet to propose anything to address the lack of teaching of Physical Literacy in our primary (and secondary) schools, a fundamental component of the foundations of any long-term sports participation. He has yet to propose anything that addresses the woeful lack of PE training undergone by those training to become primary school teachers. So far his sole offering is the Minister for Sport’s pet initiative, the Schools Olympics, he is offering nothing for those who are not competitive or even those who like competing but are only moderately talented.
Hugh Robertson (Minister for Sport) tells us the Government has a strategy for sport. Mr Gove tells us they are devising plans for school sport. Which is it? Does the Government have a strategy or is it still at the planning stage? Or do they see school sport as remote, separate from main stream sport?
Mr Gove and Mr Robertson need to get their heads together and start thinking about more than initiatives that look good and can be dressed as serving ‘legacy’ (but please don’t look too closely) and start thinking about how best to serve the long-term interests of sport in this country and thereby the people of this country.
That means a strategy for the development of sport which is vertically integrated. That means properly addressing every stage of the sports development continuum. It also means making the provision of sporting facilities, the support of clubs with community roots and backing for the development of sport a statutory requirement of local authorities (in line with most of Europe).
If the two Ministers do that then legacy would take care of itself but they need to act fast before we lose faith completely.
© Jim Cowan, Cowan Global Limited, 2010