London 2012: Legacy uncertain as school playing fields sold off


The legacy of the London 2012 Games has been thrown into doubt after figures reveal that Education Secretary Michael Gove has approved the sale of over 20 school playing fields since the coalition government has been in power.

In total, 21 out of 22 requests have been given the go ahead by the Department for Education in the last two years, with one more still under consideration.

The sell-off comes despite a pledge by the coalition to protect school playing fields.

The new figures, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, are likely to fuel concerns about school sport.

It comes the day after Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt admitted that school sports provision is still patchy.

Lord Moynihan, the head of the British Olympic Association (BOA), has called for a major increase in Government funding to build on the success of Team GB at the London Games.

Among the pitches approved for disposal is a 1.6 acre playing field at the Winchcombe School, a state primary in Newbury, Berkshire, which has been put up for sale with outline planning permission for housing, the Guardian reported.

And a new school has been built on the site of playing fields at Woodhouse School in Staffordshire.

Some of the fields due to be sold off will still be used for sporting purposes, including Kingsbury High School in north London, which has plans to lease its pitches for five-a-side use.

Others have been disposed of following school closures, the newspaper reported.

The move comes despite a promise by the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats in the coalition agreement which says they will "support the creation of an annual Olympic-style schools sport event to encourage competitive sport in schools, and we will seek to protect school playing fields."

The DfE insisted that the sell-off of school playing fields will only be agreed if schools' sports needs can continue to be met.

It is understood that the previous Labour government approved the sell off of just over 200 playing fields over 13 years.

And an estimated 10,000 were disposed of between 1979 and 1997.

BOA chairman Lord Moynihan yesterday accused the current and previous governments of "treading water" in terms of increasing participation.

The peer, a former sports minister under Margaret Thatcher, claimed school sports policy is "bureaucratic" and needs more money to fund a major expansion.

Lord Moynihan said: "There is a need for radical reform and I am calling for more money. There needs to be a total commitment to ensuring a sports participation legacy that has to focus on schools and clubs.

"For seven years successive governments have been treading water.

"We have tens of thousands of kids watching great moments which will live with them for ever. The Government should step up to the mark."

He suggested children should be given the chance to try minority Olympic sports such as handball, and primary schools given help to provide more sporting opportunities.

Sport England's focus is on improving participation in the 14-24 age group.

Earlier, Mr Hunt had told BBC Breakfast: "I think at the moment school sport provision is patchy in some places, and we need to do what we can to make sure that the very best examples are spread throughout the whole country, and this is absolutely going to be a focus over the next few months and one of the things that we really want to take away from these Games."

The Culture Secretary insisted that funding of sport has been "one of the great successes" over the past two decades.

A DfE spokeswoman said: "We will only agree to the sale of school playing fields if the sports and curriculum needs of schools and their neighbouring schools can continue to be met.

"Sale proceeds must be used to improve sports or education facilities and any new sports facilities must be sustainable for at least 10 years."

The DfE later said that of the 21 playing fields approved for sale, 14 were at schools that had closed, and a further four were deemed surplus after existing schools amalgamated.

Of the other three, one was extra grassland at a school site, one was leased to a company for it to redevelop and improve a playing field and the third was due to be leased to an athletics club, although this did not go ahead.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas