Government fails to keep Olympic legacy alive for our children

Hopes that last year’s Olympic games would encourage young people to get fit and take up sport are fading

The Tyne bridge with the Olympic rings
The Tyne bridge with the Olympic rings

Hopes that last year’s Olympic games would encourage young people to get fit and take up sport are fading - after the Government failed to keep the momentum going, North East councils and teachers have warned.

Ministers appear to have “no clear strategy” for securing the legacy of the Olympics, a Commons inquiry has been told.

The Government argued in the run up to last year’s £9bn games that they would encourage children in particular to take part in sport.

But a new survey published by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport revealed that the numbers taking part have actually fallen.

It found that 87.5% of children aged five to 15 said they had “done any sport in the last four weeks” compared to 89.7% cent in 2010.

And it has emerged that North East authorities expressed concern about the Government’s failure to act, in evidence submitted to the Commons Education Committee.

They were particularly concerned about cuts in funding to School Sports Partnerships, which bought secondary and primary schools together to share resources and specialist staff, allowing some schools to run clubs or competitive teams which would otherwise have been impossible.

A submission from Gateshead Council’s Education Service warned: “Current Government policy has been effective in reducing significantly the number of children taking part in school sport in both primary and secondary schools.”

It added: “Reducing the funding to School Sport Partnerships has reduced provision of school sport and has led to patchy provision across the country.”

The council also criticised a new Government-backed contest called School Games, in which children first of all compete against pupils at their own school in a range of sports, with the best subsequently going on to compete at school, county and finally national level.

It said: “School games caters only for the best and a relatively small number of young people”.

And it added: “The Government did not have a clear school sports legacy strategy in place and that momentum was already diminishing significantly.”

Similar concerns were raised by the County Durham School Sport Steering Group, which includes Durham County Council, head teachers, Durham University and health managers.

It warned: “The lack of direct funding for School Sport Partnerships has led to, in many areas, a complete disintegration of a service much valued by schools.”

It added: “Sustainable extra-curricular sport in secondary schools, ie, regular competitive games leagues, is declining rapidly. Partly as a result of academic pressures, teachers do not have the time they once did to devote to extra-curricular sport . . the nation was inspired by the 2012 Games but so much time has lapsed since then that some impact has been lost already.”

The evidence was submitted earlier this year as MPs carried out their inquiry, and has now been published. In a report last month, the Education Committee, including Pat Glass Labour MP for North West Durham and Gateshead Labour MP Ian Mearns, urged the Government to draw up a school sports strategy.

The Government says that 1.4 million more people of all ages are playing sport at least once a week than in 2005. Meanwhile, £1bn investment is going into youth and community sport over five years to encourage greater participation and improve facilities.

A DCMS spokesman said: “The Games were inspirational and we are completely committed to capitalising on that and increasing opportunities for young people to get involved in sport.

"Over £300 million will be going direct to primary schools over the next two years, starting next term, that will improve sporting provision and put children on a path where they play sport for life.

"This is on top of over £1 billion of public investment to grassroots sport over four years that is delivering a tangible sports legacy from London 2012.”


David Whetstone
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