Cameron hails independent schools athletes


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The Independent Online

Independent schools have provided “more than their fair share” of Britain's medal-winning athletes, Prime Minister David Cameron said today as he visited the Team GB training camp ahead of the London Olympics.

The Prime Minister said that sport had been "squeezed out" in state schools, where facilities have been allowed to be run down and many children were left with the belief that sport was not for them.

And he said he hoped this summer's Games will inspire more children to compete, and that the Government's £1 billion investment in youth sport would encourage a wider range of young people to get involved.

"Sport can change lives," said Mr Cameron during his visit to Loughborough, Leicestershire.

"So why is it that in so many schools sport has been squeezed out and facilities run down?

"The result is that independent schools produce more than their fair share of medal winners and too many children think taking part in sport just isn't for them.

"We've got to change that. So we're putting £1 billion into youth sport, including a massive expansion of after-school clubs for children who don't think sport is for them.

"Already, we've got 3,000 secondary and 4,500 primary clubs under way. I want to see 13,500 by 2015."

Mr Cameron said that the first London Olympics in 1908 played an important part in making sport "something that could be shared by everyone".

And he said he hoped that this summer's Games would provide "momentum" to encourage young people to "follow their heroes and take part at school and in their local clubs".

Mr Cameron said: "Some of the barriers that hold young people back are in their minds: about imagined barriers of aspiration and confidence. The Olympics are a chance to break them down.

"I'm not claiming one Olympics will turn every child into tomorrow's Mo Farah or Victoria Pendleton.

"But just look where our great athletes have come from. Seb Coe started running with the Hallamshire Harriers. Amir Khan started boxing at Bury ABC.

"It's not just about helping young people develop a sporting habit for life. We've got to nurture the best talents for the future, too."

He hailed the 14,000 schools which took part in the School Games programme in its first year of operation, which culminated in finals held at the Olympic Park with 1,600 young athletes.

"I want to see that competition grow, to become a fixture in the lives of young people in this country," said Mr Cameron.