Coffee House

Labour plays a sensible game on school sport

13 August 2012

It would be wrong to say that David Cameron has had a bad Olympics. After all, the Games went extremely well, both in terms of logistics and Britain’s wonderful medal haul. The Prime Minister is not responsible for the bouncy mood of the country at the moment, but he’s also not having to answer aggressive questions from the media about an awful security breach, total gridlock in central London or worse.

But the Prime Minister did rather let himself down by being drawn into the inevitable debate about sports provision in the state education sector during the Games. That discussion started so early into Britain’s rise up the medal table that at the time it was impossible to assess whether state-educated athletes were pulling their weight. Even as the Games drew to a close, the Prime Minister and Education Secretary Michael Gove would have been wise to resist the probably rather satisfying attacks on the teaching unions and comments about ‘sort of Indian dancing‘. The latter was presumably an attempt by the Prime Minister to appear on the side of common sense, but instead it led to him being roundly mocked. There was even a rather mysterious bout of bhangra in the closing ceremony last night, which conspiracy theorists (and most of the lobby) suspected had been inserted last minute as a gibe at Cameron.

This has left rather a nice gap for Labour to step into. By calling for a cross-party plan on competitive sports in schools, Ed Miliband and Tessa Jowell managed to suggest that they were above party politics on this issue. Today Shadow Education Secretary Stephen Twigg has made sensible noises about devolving power to local communities so they can decide whether their local free school or academy is under performing in its sports provision. Twigg also pointed out that this weekend’s announcement that competitive team sports will be made compulsory for all primary-age children does not apply to academies and free schools, and said Labour would amend funding rules to ensure that it did. Whether or not you agree with that depends on whether you think the government should be dictating the curriculum to schools (and Fraser has looked at this in more detail here). But by sticking to policy details rather than slightly dodgy anecdotes about dancing, Miliband’s party has gained the upper hand.

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Show comments
  • Fergus Pickering

    Most of the British medals, pretty well all of them, were won at sports that are not available at any State school. I think boys should be playing rugby, football, cricket and stuff like that, but it should not be COMPULSORY, Good God. I also think they should be actijng in plays, playing chess etc but DITTO. I HATED gym at schol, absolutely hated it and I was far from the only one. Something that SHOULD be compulsory is learning to swim. Is it?

  • Polittiscribe

    After thirteen years of dumbing down our educational system – a great part of which was the planned decline of competitive sports – Labour now decide they need a ‘cross-party’ plan. This is pure opportunism and in no way does it give them ‘the upper hand’. Roll on with the reforms. Labour ‘devolving’ power to ‘local communities’ is in reality the vested interests of producers – unions, teachers and party activists.. Same old Labour.

    • Sweetpea

      There is absolutely no basis in fact to justify your claim that Labour was engage in a “planned decline of competitive sports” during its time in office. Labour brought the Olympics to London; it introduced school sports partnerships to identify children who would benefit from elite training; a requirement for a minimum 2 hours PE a week; free swimming for U16s. That record tally of medals GB just won – mostly by sports men and women schooled during the Labour years (even allowing for those who attended private schools). Feel free to hate Labour for its politics, but you do yourself a disservice by pedalling lazy BS.

      • 2trueblue

        “Schooled down through the Labour years” but not necessarily in state schools.
        During the Labour years there could be no losers and the standard of education went down not up, despite all the allotted stars gained in exams. Child poverty went up during the Blair/Brown administration, youth unemployment went up, (as stated by David Milliband), teenage pregnancies went up. All in all not a great legacy for a time when the narrative was that we were doing so well.

    • Amergin Selby

      Do you actually believe that there was a decline in competitive sports? Or are you just spouting anti-left propaganda. I taught for 30 years in the primary sector and I have chased around in the wind and rain refereeing 9 year olds soccer matches, having jogged a good half mile to get to a decent field. Every Saturday I have collected and transported boys to play five a side soccer at the local Sports centre against other schools.
      I have promoted speed cricket across our city and run a sports day in which only those children who wanted took part, and spotted two talents that were encouraged by me to develop their running and went on to represent their county. When was this? !970’s and 80’s.
      My grandson has played rugby league since he was 7 and now has a scholarship with his city’s club. You talk silly nonsense because you listen rather than find out for yourself. By the way I am not looking for plaudits there are a host of people like me all involved in children’s sports.

  • 2trueblue

    What happened in the 13yrs Labour were in power? Miliband is an opportunist.

    • Sweetpea

      I applaud you for suggesting that Labour should be judged by its actions rather than its rhetoric – see my response to Polittiscribe below. Cheers!

  • Mr. Bubbles

    Please tell me you’re not that naive. It’s the very definition of part politics.

    • Mr. Bubbles


      Doesn’t appear that you can edit posts using Disqus (the old comments system was much better by the way).

      • HelloJohn

        Mr. Bubbles could we have Disqus throwing on school sports day. Frisbee for the inner city boys. Girls just throw tantrums and pick a boy. Titter yea not.

  • ButcombeMan

    This quality of article is just not worthy of serious comment. In this place anyway.

    It is not the first time you have done this. You seem to write to try to provoke comment rather than to provide information and insight.

    Never mind the quality, look at the number of comments?

    Commentators here would in my view be well advised to ignore your articles until you get a grip.

    Trolling it seems, does not just come from telemachus

  • John_Page

    Stephen Twigg has made sensible noises about devolving power to local
    communities so they can decide whether their local free school or
    academy is under performing in its sports provision

    I suspect Fraser will differ from this highly dodgy opinion. Just who does Isabel think would sit in judgement on the local free schools and academies?

  • jsfl

    What this? Hardman peddling Commisar Milibands Ten Year ‘Tractor’ Plan (could that be starting kids on steroids at 5 years old perhaps?).for school sports. I note she didn’t mention how long it was to be for (convenient).

    As for devolving power over schools how hypocritical can you get? First Labour say they will allow government schools to decide locally whether or not they play enough sports but the free schools that already have the ultimate devolved power to decide will no longer be allowed to decide for themselves and be force under local (government no doubt?) control. So it seems like yet another case of well you can do as you like so long as we and the Unions can tell you what you like.

    What a lot of nonsense. Labour hypocrisy to the fore once more and Hardman on the wrong side again! She really doesn’t think about these things. Labour just are not in the business of giving ordinary people power. That gift of power is only to be received by loyal Labour stooges.

    Has Hardman actually any experience of real politics?

    • tele_machus

      “By calling for a cross-party plan on competitive sports in schools, Ed Miliband and Tessa Jowell managed to suggest that they were above party politics on this issue.”
      What is wrong with this?
      Further would you prefer Tessa Jowell, a sincere proponent of sport or Hunt who is “pleased with himself?”

    • HelloJohn

      Local Control it’s called democracy. Would you have the Lord of the Manor decide? 5 year old school sports lordy would phone a friend and fix the race so that only little lords could win. Some understanding of child development might help. Lordy would phone a friend and get an unqualified educator to coach the tractor plan kiddies to come last in the race of life. Leaving little Lordy to Lord it over all of us. Common sense really, ordinary people power as you so righty say. Full Marks. In fact on your Marx get set Go…….

  • Guru Mckenzie

    Cameron’s garbled statement about competitive sport was an attempt to “reframe” the debate and get the spotlight away from cuts to sports funding but it didn’t really work for him
    Overall he had a bad Games because Boris had a good Games
    The BJ factor will continue to be his biggest problem between now and 2015 – at the moment he doesn’t really seem to have an answer

    • Amergin Selby

      BJ now going to do the mayoralty half time because there is no spotlight to prance and boogie in. Its boring, innit. Never forget he was sacked for falsifying quotes, sacked for lying to his party leader about an affair he was having. He is a serial adulterer. He dismissed phone hacking as codswallop. He invited Murdoch to his Olympic party while the moguls’s journalists were being arrested and charged in droves. He is mendacious, self promoting and dangerous. Never ever trust the man.”A man may smile and smile and be a villain.”

    • HelloJohn

      The BJ factor make him a judge on school sports days. The Frankie Howard of British Politics. It’s all an act. Titter yea not.

  • Peter Hearn

    Labour is going to have a job devolving anything beyond the uniform colours down to local level, since they and their union backers are so in love with centralisation, against free schools or anything else they can’t control in minute detail.

    Twigg’s comment cited in the article that they would make competitive sport compulsory in academies and free schools shows their Marxist control-freak credentials cannot be suppressed.

    Let the schools provide what they, and more importantly, the parents deem necessary. It’s not a “community” matter at all.

    Cameron’s best move is surely to step back, advocate schools taking direct responsibility for their sports provision, and to ensure that politically difficult sales of playing fields are handled very carefully to defuse the charge that the Tories are in thrall to property development interests.

  • Span Ows

    Miliband has been almost invisible, good, clearly at last his advisers sorted him out…until the point he called for cross party plan. This IS party politics because he’s so worried Cameron might get some (sorely needed) good press that he has to stick his oar in.

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