Inside Lines: No U-turn on school sports cash but Gove is set to make a left
Sunday 12 December 2010
There's a hell of a punch-up still going on in the playground since that school bully Michael Gove took the ball away and won't let the other kids play with it. At least that's what many teachers are claiming. They are also suggesting there will be no legacy left for the class of 2012 when the Olympics are over, and that we will end up in the next decade with a generation of Billy Bunters rather than Tom Daleys.
Why has the education secretary put the boot into the schools sports programme? That's the £162 million question. Actually, the funding has not been cut, just "de-ring-fenced" to allow head teachers to decide for themselves how the money should be allocated; whether to continue to use it to bring in sports coaches and improve sports facilities or channel it elsewhere. The outcry has been boosted by a well-orchestrated campaign, in which some 80 Olympians including Denise Lewis have joined thousands of hot-under-the-mortarboard teachers and schoolkids in petitioning a Prime Minister already up to his neck in revolting students. Lewis calls it "a crying shame" and now the boxer James DeGale has joined the fight, saying the decision is "baffling".
The Government's action, we are told, is not simply to save money but because they believe there is insufficient competitive sport in schools. So to this end they are introducing a "Schools Olympics" which will supplant the present UK School Games. And there's the rub. The UK School Games were the baby of the last administration and have been run by the Youth Sports Trust, the big losers in all of this as their raison d'être is challenged. For effectively what Gove is doing is emasculating the YST. A casualty will be their Schools Sports Partnership programme, which employs several thousand coaches and games organisers across 450 schools. But not if Baroness Sue Campbell has her way. She chairs both the YST and UK Sport, and while she sits as a cross-bencher in the House of Lords, she is known to have Labour sympathies. Which is where the issue becomes intensely political, for Tory peer Lord Moynihan, who backs the new move, also wants the British Olympic Association, which he chairs, to be the major player in running the "Schools Olympics" rather than the YST. So what will be the upshot of Gove's armageddon? David Cameron is due to visit the Olympic Park on 20 December and by then is likely to have leaned on Gove to broker a compromise by restoring part of the ring-fenced budget. But it won't be a complete U-turn. More a veer to the left. Bully for him.
Binman the better
David Haye, now set to fight Wladimir Klitschko after the Ukrainian's bout with Dereck Chisora was conveniently called off, first has a date with the Boxing Board to explain claims that he bet on himself to beat Audley Harrison in three rounds. Just as well he didn't wager on being voted Britain's Boxer of the Year. He was pipped, surprisingly, by the binman Rendell Munroe.
Boot campers wanted
Here's a chance to be part of the action in 2012. GB Hockey are throwing open the chance to be a "ball patrol person" – PC sports-speak for ballboy or girl – at the London Games. A hundred hopefuls aged between 18 and 25, chosen by ballot, will attend a ball patrol boot camp and be whittled down to a final 36. Hurry, the deadline is tomorrow noon. Go to greatbritainhockey.co.uk.
Falling through the ice
UK Sport have bucked the current cutbacks mode by increasing the funding for six Olympic sports. Taekwondo (whose success we highlighted last week), boxing, canoeing, gymnastics, rowing and hockey will share a surprise £2.6m Christmas box. But there is cold comfort for a number of underachieving winter sports, notably figure skating, whose modest £100,000 a year goes into deep freeze. Torvill and Dean must be turning on their double axels. With successors John and Sinead Kerr out because of injury, the recent British championships saw only one couple finish in the ice dancing final. Get your skates on, Ann Widdecombe.
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