Prime Minister defends scrapping of school sport targets
David Cameron has defended the decision to scrap compulsory targets for the minimum number of hours of physical education in schools, saying it had been a box-ticking exercise that discouraged schools from doing more sport.
The prime minister said the key to the regeneration of sport in schools was the return of competitive sport: “We need a big cultural change in favour of competitive sports. I think that is what really matters.”
Questioned over whether the education department had removed the requirement, introduced by Labour, for two hours of compulsory physical education every week in schools, he told LBC radio: “Every school has to deliver sport. What the last government did – which is not right – is if you just sit there in Whitehall and set a target but don’t actually do anything to help schools to meet it, you are not really solving the problem.”
He was speaking on LBC radio in the wake of the huge Olympics success, and a growing political debate on the role of schools in generating sporting prowess. The mayor of London, Boris Johnson, claimed that the success of the Olympics had been a Conservative lesson in showing the link between effort and achievement, as well as the role of competition.
Cameron said in his conversations with successful athletes that he had been struck by how many had been drawn into sport by a teacher – such as a great geography teacher – who also inspired in them a passion for sport.
Cameron said sport was still part of the national curriculum and £1bn was being spent on sport in schools over four years: “If the problem is money it would be solved by money.”
Cameron agreed, saying: “I would like to promote competitive sport – we need more competition, more competitiveness, getting rid of the idea of all-must-have prizes and you cannot have competitive sports days. We need a big cultural change in favour of competitive sports.”
Cameron was questioned over whether the education department had removed the requirement, introduced by Labour, for two hours of compulsory physical education every week in schools. He said: “Every school has to deliver sport. What the last government did – which is not right – is if you just sit there in Whitehall and set a target but don’t actually do anything to help schools to meet it, you are not really solving the problem.
“In fact, by just saying, ‘I want you to do this number of hours a week’, some schools think ‘right, as soon as I have met that minimum target, I can tick a box and give up’.”
The prime minister claimed that the best schools say they do not want targets but want to be challenged to do more.
Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: “It’s not because of teachers that funding for the school sport partnership has been so drastically reduced.”
“What we need is the support of government, not the shifting of blame. We know of many teachers who are spending time from their summer break taking children from their schools to the Games.”
Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “The prime minister’s criticisms of school sport are ill-informed, unfair and fail to recognise the huge contribution that many teachers make to sports in schools. Many teachers, not just PE staff, willingly give of their time to motivate and coach young people in a wide range of sports.