Twigg takes aim at Gove on school playing fields

15 August 2012

The Olympics may be over, but the political row over school sports fields is set to rumble on into the autumn. Stephen Twigg today announced that Labour will force a vote on the matter when the Commons returns in September. His motion will demand that the government restore a minimum space requirement for outdoor space in schools.

It does take some chutzpah for Twigg to launch this attack, given Labour managed to approve the sale of 42 playing fields in just one year, which is twice the number sold off since the coalition came to power. The Education department insists that of the 21 that have been signed off for sale, 14 belonged to schools that closed, and four were surplus to requirements after existing schools merged. But Twigg is on the money here: riding on the crest of enthusiasm for sport. He said this afternoon:

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‘Michael Gove is hopelessly out of touch on this issue. How can he think that the priority should be to weaken the standards on playing fields and outdoor space just a few days before the Olympics? We have already had the scrapping of the target of pupils doing a minimum 2 hours of PE per week, the decision the cut the school sport budget by 69 per cent and the abolishing of School Sports Partnerships. Many parents will be wondering how seriously the government are taking the legacy of inspiring the next generation.’

But the DfE argues Twigg is hopelessly out of touch on the detail of this story. A spokesperson said this evening that the government’s ‘extremely strict rules on playing fields will stay firmly in place’, and argued that safeguards had also been strengthened around building on playing fields. The new regulations that have sparked this row say this:

Outdoor space
10.—(1) Suitable outdoor space must be provided in order to enable—
(a) physical education to be provided to pupils in accordance with the school curriculum; and
(b) pupils to play outside.

These come into force in October 2012, and replace regulations stipulating that schools should provide a specified minimum space for team sports. Sources close to Gove maintain that this is a beefing up of the requirements on schools. They’ve got until the autumn to win this race with Labour.

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Show comments
  • anne wotana kaye 1

    Things move quickly. Since this article was written, new revelations have come to light. In a truly democratic society, this coalition would be forced to resign and elections would be called. But, it is a forgone conclusion that Gove will wiggle out of a nest of lies, and the coalition will stagger on.

  • HFC

    My local Comprehensive has more than adequate playing fields augmented recently by a deal with a housing developer to set aside some land for the purpose. Mind you, the super fit/fat kids do have to smoke in the road, leaning back against the school fence, during break and lunch times. (And sometimes I wonder what they are smoking.) Not sure how many actually take an active part in sport these days.

    Oh, I forgot to say, the school won’t provide car & motorcycle parking space for pupils so they have to clutter up local residential roads with their bangers and mothers’ cars.

  • perdix

    According to the DofE any school wishing to build on playing fields will have to get the permission of the Secretary of State.

  • McRobbie

    Typical socialist / education “experts” view on how to spend our money… notice PFI school all have swimming pools that are infrequently allowed for use by the general public – does anyone realise how expensive it is to operate a heated and hygenic swimming pool.. education “experts” dont care – our kids must learn to swim but dont expect teachers to put themselves out to achieve this by going to the local swimming pool… ditto for playing fields.

  • Dan Grover

    I think the way they’re going about it isn’t really solving the problem, it’s attempting to cure one of the symptoms. This is a problem that didn’t used to exist, really. So what changed? Is it really just that they all sold off the playing fields?

    I think the problem is more likely to be that the “industry” of education has shifted more and more into a targets-and-tables chasing affair. In the race to get to the top, it’s easy to see why schools might sacrifice things that have little relation to the actual results tables in favour for those that do. Add in to that an increased health and safety culture (which is an entirely legitimate problem – it’s not that teachers don’t want to do this, it’s that it’s so much hassle and bureaucracy even if they want to just have a lesson outside that it takes an enormous and frankly unreasonable amount of desire on the part of the teacher to make it happen).

    I think specifically stipulating that a school needs XYZ school fields and need to conduct a minimum of ABC time to sports a week doesn’t solve this root problem.

  • toni

    10,000 playing fields sold off between 1979 – 1997
    Source – National Archives.

    • Coffeehousewall

      Where are these playing fields that have been sold off? I can think of NONE here in Maidstone. PIECES of large fields perhaps. But all of the fields I grew up with are still there. 10,000 playing fields is pretty much the entire stock of school fields. I think we would have noticed them going!

      • Paddy

        Labour needed the playing fields to grow the money trees.

  • Axstane

    Labour commissioned new compehensives and academies with as many as 2000 pupils without any external grounds at all.

    How Twigg can have the brass neck to bring this forward is beyond all understanding.

    • toni

      As some comps cater for 1000 pupils each, you’re talking about…. 2?
      Where are the ones you mention located?
      Some schools setting up now are on industrial estates or using old office buildings, doubtful that they’re surrounded by acres.

  • Mirtha Tidville

    Another silly season, mischief making story when everyone is on holiday…If numpties like Twigg were just ignored it would make life so much more pleasant. Quality is required here Speccie not quantity…

  • WIlliam Blakes Ghost

    Once again the hypocrisy and sheer dishonesty of Labour comes to the fore. They really are an insidious and malevolent influence on this country.

    • Ian Walker

      If you want to save yourself a bit of typing, just replace “hypocrisy and sheer dishonesty” with “socialism”

      • Daniel Maris

        Ahem…excuse me butting in on the libertarian-luv-in but how about addressing the issues? The new guidance makes clear that schools can put huts and so on on playing fields. It’s all about coping with the consequences of mass immigration which this government refuses to do anything about.
        It does represent a weakening of the rules.
        The local primary school near where I live is now packed full of huts and the tarmac play space left over is tiny. It’s wrong.

      • toni

        Erm…what were you saying about hypocrisy and sheer dishonesty?From the Telegraph;-
        “Michael Gove pushed
        through sales of school playing fields against official advice

        The Education Secretary overruled internal
        advice from his own independent experts to force through the sale of school
        playing fields, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.”

        “Some 10,000 playing fields were sold off between 1979 and 1997 under the
        Tories. But under Labour, between 1997 and 2010, only 226 were sold.”

    • tele_machus

      They really are an insidious and malevolent influence on this country.
      So then what are the coalition?
      I know we need UKIP and its broad range of policies to get the economy going again

    • 2trueblue

      Perfectly put.

  • In2minds

    That’s the joy of Indian dancing, not much space required. Yoga is even better.

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