Letter: Non-competitive sports encourage pupil participation

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Sir: James Fenton is correct in his belief that compulsory sport should be about enjoyment, not punishment ('Professional foul by compulsory Sproat', 11 April).

The Labour Party is in the process of discussing the problems related to school sport, of which there are many, with both the teaching profession and other interested parties, without whom no sensible plan can become operative. Clearly Iain Sproat, the Minister for Sport, has not discussed his proposals for school sport with such people or, it would seem, with his own Secretary of State for Education.

The minister was right to lament the selling off of the 5,000- plus school playing fields in the time of his government, but to suggest they can be bought back shows a complete lack of realism, because most are now either supermarkets or warehouses.

If he is sincere in his beliefs, then he should adopt Labour's policy of scrapping the infamous circular 909, which allows local authorities to sell playing fields off in the first place.

In addition, he should implement a policy that ensures new playing fields are established, and then to see that their potential is fully exploited with more emphasis placed on their dual use by both schools and the community.

Rather than pontificate on the subject of compulsory competitive sport, the minister should also follow the lead of the Labour Party in ensuring sport is an integral part of the national curriculum, with at least two hours a week. He should ensure that school sport offers a wide range of options, not just traditional team sports, so that children find their own levels of enjoyment, be it competitive, friendly, team or individual games.

Yours faithfully,


MP for Stalybridge and Hyde


House of Commons

London, SW1

11 April

The writer is shadow minister for sport.