State schools will fail to deliver on the Olympic sporting legacy unless there is a major overhaul of the way they teach sport and PE, Lord Moynihan, chairman of the British Olympic Association, said today.
He called for an increase in the amount of time spent training primary teachers to teach PE, adding: “Sixty per cent of our primary school trainees spend less than six hours in total on PE.”
In addition, he said education standards watchdog Ofsted should be told to report on how curriculum time is spent on sport in each school as well as the hours devoted to out-of-school activities.
Speaking at the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) – which represents top independent schools – in Belfast, he was also highly critical of Education Secretary Michael Gove’s decision to set up an Olympic-style school games competition for all schools in England.
“This total focus on the Olympic style school games as the panacea of all competitive school sport is not the answer,” he added.
“You need to engage in sporting links with local clubs, work with schools and some of the sporting academies in the area and build things up.”
He said the games approach had “failed lamentably to address the issue of getting talented youngsters into sport”.
Lord Moynihan added that young athletes revelled in inter- school sporting rivalry – building up a rapport with their team-mates, adding: “Don’t take that kid out and put them in a blue t-shirt and call his team south-east England.”
He also called on schools not to just concentrate on traditional sports like football and cricket and instead opt to provide alternatives such as dance on the curriculum. “There should be more dance available,” he told heads.
Speaking afterwards, he added: “Historically, there has been an emphasis in schools on traditional sports but I think it is important we need to move away from that and be responsive to what the kids want to do.
“I’m a strong advocate that dance should be part of what we offer kids. There are lots of kids who want to do it and here is an activity that gets them healthy and gets them into recreation.”
His comments put him at odds with Prime Minister David Cameron who – during the Olympics – was critical of a school offering its pupils Indian dance as part of their sports activities.
He added: “I’m not against the school games but I think it should be part of an overall agenda which starts with developing school links to clubs and sports governing bodies to increase participation.”
He praised independent schools for delivering eight gold medals, five silver and seven bronze at the Olympics “which puts you just marginally ahead of Australia, and ahead of Japan, Spain, Brazil and Jamaica”.
However, he said that the “worst statistic in British sport” was that these medals were gained by just seven per cent of the population who had been to private schools compared with the 93 per cent attending state schools.
“We’re failing to identify and provide a ladder of opportunity for outstandingly talented kids in the state sector,” he added.
He urged private schools to share their expertise within their communities to help reduce the gap.
However, Bernard Trafford, a former chairman of HMC and head of Newcastle Royal Grammar school, argued that the best way of improving sports provision in the state sector would be to have a trained specialist sports teacher in every primary school.
“If you have a teacher who knows what they’re doing in every primary school, that would solve the problem,” he added.