What should schools be doing after the London Olympics

What should you be doing about the London Olympics?

If your answer to this is, “isn’t that rather old news?” then you are probably in the majority, because a survey has just found that schools are generally not doing much to capitalise on what the organisers of the games like to call “the inspirational legacy” of the London Olympics.

The survey of 1,006 parents by Chance to Shine cricket charity marks 100 days since the end of London 2012.  It suggests the Games inspired over 50% of children to take up a new sport, but 80% of parents say the amount of PE and games in UK schools has not increased.  The government says it is not its fault as it is investing £1bn over the next five years.

One of the key parts of the London Olympic bid was inspiring the athletes of the future.

The Chance to Shine survey found 54% of pupils had been inspired to take up a new sport as a result of the Olympics. However, eight out of ten parents said their children were playing the same amount of sport or less during school hours following the Games, and survey results suggested many pupils do less than the recommended two hours of sport a week.  54% of the parents of five to 16-year-olds polled said their children played less than two hours of games or PE in school a week.

One reason, of course, could be that rules requiring schools to report on whether they had met that target were scrapped by Education Secretary Michael Gove in 2010, although the Secretary of State has since said that he expected schools to maintain their current levels of PE and sport.

42% of parents blamed time pressures of the curriculum, 33% blamed a lack of facilities and 29% blamed a lack of funding for school sports.

A message on the youth legacy section of the London 2012 website says: “Since it won the bid to host the Games, London 2012 has worked closely with partners and stakeholders on activation programmes to promote sports participation in the run-up to, during and after the Games. For example, 14,000 schools and more than five million young people took part in the 2012 National School Sports Week sponsored by Lloyds TSB.”

General secretary of the National Union of Teachers Christine Blower, however, made the point that although a lot was being done, “Think how much more, though, could be done if the government hadn’t all but scrapped the Schools Sports Partnership and presided over the sell-off of playing fields.

A government spokesperson said: “We want more young people to take part in competitive sport – not only so they lead healthy and active lifestyles but also so they develop new skills and learn how to work as a team. This is why we are putting competitive sport at the heart of the new primary school curriculum and extending the School Games competition. We are also investing £1bn over the next five years in youth sport; improving links between schools and clubs and upgrading hundreds of facilities up and down the country.

“However, encouraging more young people to take part in sport cannot be driven just by top down Whitehall policies, as we have seen previously; it must be led by parents and communities creating a culture where competitive sport can thrive.”

So where does this leave us?

Obviously any school that is following up on the Olympics should be putting out publicity on the fact, as clearly this is something that will resonate with parents.  (Don’t forget to send a copy of your press release to Chris@hamilton-house.com for inclusion free of charge in UK Education News.)

And although there is no mention in the above debate on the para-olympics I know for sure a number of schools have taken this, rather than the Olmypics themselves, as a guide for the work that can be done with special needs students.

As a further thought, just because a physical activity was not within the Olympics does not mean that the activity itself cannot be introduced.  My own particular interest in dance surfaces here. The number of young people who feel they don’t want to participate in Olympics type sports is high – but they can be excited by the possibility of dance.  It is a case that, huge though the Olympics’ audience might have been, the level of young person interest in Strictly Come Dancing is quite possibly even higher!

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