Education International
Education International

UK: Government support needed to promote school sports

published 16 August 2012 updated 22 August 2012

EI national affiliates in the UK reacted angrily to Prime Minister David Cameron’s suggestion that teachers were not “playing their part” in school sports. The National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) were reacting to Cameron’s call for “a big cultural change” in favour of competitive sports in schools.

He made the call in the wake of London’s successful hosting of the 2012 Olympic Games and Team GB’s medal haul.

However, in 2010, the coalition government removed the requirement that schools in England provide pupils with at least two hours of sport a week.

NUT: Need Government support, not blame

The Prime Minister’s comments angered unions representing teachers and head teachers."It ill behoves the Prime Minister to dismiss money as an issue in school sport. Cutting School Sports Partnerships was frankly an act of vandalism and left many schools without the additional support for sport they had found so helpful,” said NUT General Secretary Christine Blower.

“What we need is the support of government, not the shifting of blame. It's not because of teachers that funding for the School Sports Partnership has been so drastically reduced. Nor is it down to teachers that playing fields are being sold off, despite election promises.

“If the Prime Minister were to acquaint himself more thoroughly with the National Curriculum and with practice in schools, he would be congratulating state school teachers on the great job they are doing in competitive sport as well as in all forms of activity which encourage fitness,” she stated.

NASUWT:  action against cuts

Damian Hinds MP also seeked to blame the NASUWT’s action short of strike action for the decline in school sporting activities. The union had issued guidance to teachers saying: “Members should refuse to attend any meetings and activities outside school session times which are not on the school calendar and which are not within directed time.”

The union instructed its members in December 2011 to take action short of industrial action as part of a dispute with the Education Secretary over pay, workload and pensions. The instructions remain in place.

NASUWT General Secretary, Chris Keates, said: “These comments only serve to demonstrate how desperate the Government is now that the detrimental impact its education policies and funding cuts are having on school sport has been exposed.”

She went on to say that “selectively quoting from the NASUWT action instructions is just clutching at straws in an attempt to divert attention from the fact that one of the first acts of this Government was to slash the funding for the School Sport Trust networks as part of the Chancellor's first tranche of cuts.

“Add to this the Government's increasingly elitist education policies, which are dismissive of subjects not considered 'academic', and the two years of deep cuts to school budgets and local authority services, including support for school sport, and it's absolutely clear where the blame for any decline in provision for sport lies.”

Keates also indicated that the NASUWT action short of strike action has not targeted sporting activities at all. It has been specifically designed to be pupil, parent and public friendly.

“The whole action is premised on standing up for standards, something the Government is failing to do,” she underlined. “The sport saboteurs are not unions, but ideologically driven Government ministers who are vandalising our education service.”

EI: Sport, crucial to education for global citizenship

EI President Susan Hopgood stressed the importance of sport as integral part of education for global citizenship. “Preparing young people to be active and productive global citizens is an important element of their education,” she said, in support of the struggle by EI’s national affiliates in the UK in favour of sport in schools. “The development of critical thinking, conflict resolution skills, respect for diversity, gender equality, artistic and sporting values and environmental awareness are among the behaviours that must be developed in young people through appropriate learning opportunities.”

Participants at the 6th EI World Congress, held in Cape Town, South Africa, in July 2011, also adopted a Resolution on the Future of the Teaching Profession. This resolution acknowledges that students should be entitled to a curriculum which covers literacy, numeracy, the sciences, foreign languages, the arts, the humanities, life-skills and sporting activities. The curriculum should provide the students with civic competencies and prepare them for democracy. It should also address their social, emotional and intellectual needs, in addition to preparing them for adult life and the world of work.

The Resolution: The crisis should not affect our school model, approved at the same congress, urges governments to make schools accessible, especially in and to poor communities. This will turn schools into centres of community development activities and provide much-needed social, educational and recreational facilities to address social problems. And it will provide opportunities through sport and cultural activities to the youth and communities members.

Sport education in correctional settings

“The provision of education in correctional settings should be guaranteed in legislation," states the Resolution on education in correctional settings, endorsed at the 5th EI World Congress, held in Berlin, Germany, in July 2007. “Access to education should include classroom subjects, adult basic and general education, accredited vocational education sensitive to trends in the labour market, distance education, creative and cultural activities, physical education and sports, social education and pre- and post-release programmes.”