In 2010, the Education Secretary Michael Gove proposed to axe £162m in ring-fenced funding for a national network of School Sports Partnerships. In the wake of an outcry from athletes, pupils and opposition MPs Prime Minister David Cameron ordered a partial U-turn; however, the ring-fenced funding was still cut by 69 per cent and only guaranteed until 2013. So why is sports education the first to be cut?
As financial austerity measures begin to take their toll the balancing act of what to fund and what to cut becomes more challenging. UK school budgets are extremely tight and any required savings tend to come from deleting or reducing certain aspects of the curriculum. Due to the importance placed on more traditional subjects such as English, Maths, Science and History, subjects with less academic weight lose out on funds once budgets become tighter.
Sports education tends to fall in the latter category, and with these cuts heavily affecting schools it is feared that this will greatly impact on the amount of sport that is played by children both now and in the future. Adding to this concern is the drive towards selling off precious playing fields; to date 22 sport pitches across London have been approved for sale, which does not support the 2012 Olympic legacy.
Many studies highlight that the amount of hours children spend indoors on computer games is in keeping with their becoming less active. In addition high computer game usage does not allow children to envisage a realistic future career, which, as a result, could affect their school achievements. This is extremely unfortunate as sports education is critical to a child’s development. Sport provides young people with the opportunity to express themselves and provides important lessons in teamwork, discipline and motivation. It also allows young people to experience life to its fullest, encouraging self-belief, drive and enthusiasm. This far outweighs them spending too much time indoors watching video games, potentially exposing them to games of a violent nature and which do not teach children the proper meaning of life.
The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games swept Great Britain with sporting fever and shone a spotlight on the important role sport has to play. Team GB had 550 athletes competing in the Olympics and working with them were 450 accredited staff and 300 volunteers. This shows that sport not only creates sporting champions and brings people together around a common cause but truly harnesses a spirit and belief that through hard work and perseverance anything is possible. As public budgets for sports grow tighter it is critical that the UK looks to find new ways of working together across the public and private sectors to protect sports education for its children and secure the legacy for which the 2012 Olympics set the stage.
To find out more on what True Volunteer Foundation are doing to address this, please visit the Wimbledon Sporting Project page.