Jowell deeply concerned and sceptical over London 2012 school sports legacy

Tuesday, 29 November 2011
By Tom Degun at the FIA and IMSPA Legacy Ready Summit in London

tessa jowell_29-11-111November 29 - Tessa Jowell (pictured), the Shadow Olympics Minister, said she is deeply concerned and sceptical over what the school sports legacy from the London 2012 Games will be due to the fact that the new coalition Government altered the plans for school sport when they came to office last year.

Jowell served as Culture Secretary for six years in the last Labour Government and is widely credited with getting the support of her Government and then Prime Minister Tony Blair for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic bid at a time when there was little backing for the idea.

Jowell then played a major role in helping the London 2012 bid secure an unlikely victory in Singapore in 2005 before setting up a strong support scheme to get school children participating in more sport because of the Games.

But Jowell now fears that the school sport legacy plans promised back in 2005 could be ruined due to the fact that the current Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Sports Minister Hugh Robertson have a far different approach to school sport.

The duo have been instrumental in setting up the new School Games, which builds on the success of the previous Government's UK School Games, but Jowell says that this event alone will not be enough.

"I really do commend Hugh Robertson and Jeremy Hunt for the cross-party support that they have created on the Olympics and I sit on the Olympic Board with both of them so I'm still heavily involved in the Government decision making process around London 2012," said Jowell here in central London.

"We disagree only one thing and that is school sport.

"I am a huge supporter of the School Games which build on the UK School Games our Government set up.

"I am however sceptical that the School Games, on its own, will be enough for school children who operate outside that event.

"I'm just deeply concerned because not all school children will get the opportunity to compete in the School Games and there is no real sports participation plan for them.

"We promised in Singapore to provide a real legacy for young people from the London 2012 Games and we were certainly delivering that under our Government.

"Had we kept our scheme intact, the figures show that 90 per cent of children would have participated in two hours of sport in school per week by London 2012 and that 70 per cent would have participated in five hours or more of sport in school per week by the Games.

"But the drop off rate in the last year since the new Government broke up our system has been alarming."

Michael Gove_29-11-111
The new Government's strategy to school sport was heavily criticised when in last year's Comprehensive Spending Review, Education Secretary Michael Gove (pictured) announced that the entire £162 million ($260 million/€190 million) funding for the School Sports Partnerships would be axed.

The decision was met by a huge wave of protests from teachers, pupils and Olympic athletes, like teenage diver Tom Daley, who forced the Government to partially backtrack on the decision.

The Department for Education (DfE) therefore agreed to pay the School Sports Partnerships to the end of the last academic year at a cost of £47 million ($73 million/€55 million), while £65 million ($101 million/€76 million) from the DfE's spending review settlement has been allocated to allow every school in England to release a PE teacher for one day a week for the following two academic years.

But Jowell says that this is not enough.

"We can see that at this rate, with the current scheme in place, the problem is not going any better," she said.

"But my key point is that there is still time to solve this problem.

"It is not too late to go back to the old system and stop all the redundancies of those passionate people who go into schools to help with sport.

"At the moment, I just think that is a crying shame that the rug is being pulled from under the feet of a great system that really was showing fantastic results in terms of school children participating in sport.

"If there is a significant fall between 2010 and 2014 in terms of school sport participation, we would have missed a major, major opportunity.

"The jury is obviously still out on that one but things don't look good right now unless we start making changes and start making them quickly."

Contact the writer of this story at tom.degun@insidethegames.biz


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