Running legend Brendan Foster has welcomed plans to scrap punishing schoolchildren by making them “run round school fields”.
The Great North Run founder had branded former Education Secretary Michael Gove a “disgrace” for listing the sport as a “suitable sanction” for bad classroom behaviour.
Mr Gove issued the guidelines as part of a plan for “traditional punishments” for pupils’ misbehaviour. They also included weeding, tidying and removing graffiti.
Now, Mr Gove’s successor, Nicky Morgan has opted to scrap the guidelines. Responding to a private letter from campaigner David Moorcroft, Ms Morgan said: “I see sport as playing a crucial role.
“I have therefore asked officials to revise the guidance immediately and to remove any suggestion that running might be used as a form of punishment.
“A new version of the document – minus the offending clause – will be issued on the Department’s website by the end of the week.”
The guidelines had sparked angry criticism from both running groups and members of the public. A petition was launched demanding the scrapping of the guidelines, gaining almost 10,000 signatures.
Welcoming the latest move, Mr Foster told The Journal: “We are absolutely delighted that the campaign to allow kids to enjoy running as opposed to it being used as a form of punishment has been successful. The guidelines published earlier this year were a real step backwards in terms of education and health, and threatened to demonise running.
“It is an enjoyable, rewarding and beneficial activity and we witnessed at first hand last weekend its appeal with the Great North Run, which included over 6,000 kids taking part in junior events.”
Speaking about Mr Gove’s comment at the time, the athletics legend had said: “I’d like to make him run round a school field – if I can find one. He has been selling them off.”
The ex-chemistry teacher claimed Mr Gove’s guidelines contradicted the Government’s own policies to fight childhood obesity and boost sport in schools. He said: “For years we’ve told people running is enjoyable and beneficial to health.”
Ms Morgan, who took over the role of Education Secretary earlier this year, is an active member of the running community, having completed the London Marathon. In her letter to Mr Moorcroft, she said: “I share your view that it threatens to have a negative impact on the sport and on the view young people take of it.” She added: “Even now I have taken on this role as Secretary of State for Education - a job as you would imagine keeps me extremely busy - I continue to try and run regularly.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “While maintaining high standards of discipline in schools is vital, we want schools to promote the virtues of sporting activities, rather than use them as sanctions. Any suggestion that running may be used as a sanction in schools will be removed from guidance and a new version will be published in due course.”