Sports colleges 'useless to most pupils'

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The Independent Online

More than 100 new sports colleges announced by the Government will do nothing to prevent a generation of young people turning into couch potatoes, experts said yesterday.

More than 100 new sports colleges announced by the Government will do nothing to prevent a generation of young people turning into couch potatoes, experts said yesterday.

As ministers promised that talented young people would be able to take the fast track to the top of their chosen sports, critics asked what was in the package for millions of children who were not classed as gifted.

Britain was bottom of the European league for the amount of the timetable spent on school sport, they said.

Nigel Hook, head of technical services at the Central Council of Physical Recreation, welcomed the colleges but said: "It is all very well concentrating on issues relating to excellence in sport and those who are gifted. What parents of 8 million children want is an opportunity for them to enjoy PE and games in school.

"There must be a compulsory two hours' PE a week in primary schools. At present, the average is only 70 minutes. We are storing up disaster with young people becoming disaffected with sport and building up poor lifestyles."

David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, said there would be 110 sports colleges in England by 2003 to provide sports coaching for pupils from their own and surrounding schools.

The colleges are part of a £150m package - half from the private sector - for 300 new community sports and arts facilities, based mostly in schools. The colleges will be the base for 600 sports co-ordinators announced last autumn.

David Hart, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, welcomed the changes but said: "The timetable is simply too overcrowded and the facilities in many schools are inadequate. We are not going to produce a nation of fit young people let alone find the world class talent the public so desperately wants unless the Government tackles these two root causes."

Mr Blunkett said: "We are determined to maximise the opportunities for young people to engage in sport both during and outside the school day."

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