UK Politics

Labour Party: Government under pressure to rethink school sport decision

News   •   Nov 22, 2010 11:29 GMT

Reports today of a Cabinet split over the decision to cut all Government funding from school sport are adding to pressure from elite athletes to rethink the decision.

Speaking to Parliamentarians at a seminar convened by Labour Shadow Ministers last week, Olympic Gold Medalist Darren Campbell said,

"There is a lot of talk about legacy with 2012 but without infrastructure there is no legacy, and if you make these cuts there will not be these possibilities.

"I think that young people can now dream for the stars but by cutting all the good work that has been done, what are you going to get them to dream about?"

Three weeks ago, the Coalition Government decided to cease funding for, and effectively dismantle the infrastructure responsible for supporting school sport in this country.

Through ending support for School Sport Partnerships, they are stripping away the very bodies that have transformed school sport and were entrusted to deliver so much of the Olympic legacy promise made to the international community and the people of this country.

In schools, a decade of progress under Labour was yielding real results, giving young people in state schools the same sporting opportunities that have long been enjoyed in private schools.

Andy Burnham MP, Labour's Shadow Education Secretary, said:


"In 1997, Labour inherited a school sports system in the doldrums. We changed all that to ensure that every child had the opportunity to take part in high quality sport, including competitive sport. All this is now under threat.

"Just when we are working to inspire young people across the globe through our International Olympic and Paralympic Legacy, our own children are being let down. It's good that David Cameron is supporting our World Cup bid in Zurich, but he needs to pay more attention to the damage his Government is doing to the grassroots of sport here in the UK.

"We call on the Government to look again at this issue, and build on the work of the last decade instead of throwing it all away."

The success of our school sports programme has been internationally recognised – Wenda Donaldson, Director of Community Sport at the Australian Sports Commission, said,

“I am absolutely devastated to hear of the cuts to the School Sport Partnership models.  I am astounded that such an amazing and world leading initiative has been lost to the communities they serviced.”

Michael Gove attempted to defend the decision on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show this morning, saying,

“One of the problems with the existing system that we’ve had is that we haven’t seen the increase in the number of people playing competitive sport. Just one child in five plays competitive sport against another school even through billions have been spent on this scheme. Instead we are going to have a new scheme. My Cabinet colleague Jeremy Hunt has got a marvellous proposal for a school Olympics.”

In fact, the range of competitive opportunities, the number of young people taking part in them and the frequency with which they take part are all increasing year on year. Last year alone 3 million young people took part in inter-school competition whilst 4.8 million took part in intra-school competition.

There is nothing new to having an Olympic style school sport competition; the UK School Games has been in place and a success since 2006. This £10 million competition will not replace the network and infrastructure that has been built around school sport over the previous decade

Shadow Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Ivan Lewis said:

"These Cabinet splits demonstrate why the Coalition should urgently reconsider this decision. If he is serious about the Olympic Legacy, our World Cup bid and the fight against obesity David Cameron must now intervene and take personal responsibility for finding a way forward which ensures support for sport in our schools can continue."

Shadow Olympics Minister, Tessa Jowell said:

"Five years ago, when London won the bid for the Olympics, we made a promise to the international community and the people of this country - to transform a generation of young people through sport.

"It is now clear that even ministers within the Coalition fear  that  this legacy is being placed in danger, in clear contradiction to everything that the Olympics should mean for our country."