Friday, 20 June 2014

Sport in Schools

From the BBC

State sector head teachers need to stop treating competitive sport as an "optional extra", says Ofsted's chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw.(1)

In a report, commissioned after the 2012 Olympics, he argues too many top athletes are from private schools.(2)

Schools where pupils lack opportunities to excel in sport also tend to do worse academically, according to the report.(3)

But the National Union of Teachers said Ofsted's comparison between state and private school sport was "ridiculous".(4)

The report, Going the extra mile: Excellence in competitive school sport, was commissioned after the London games to explore why so many Team GB athletes had been educated in private rather than state schools.(5)

1. As a parent, I couldn't give two hoots about my kids doing competitive sport. I hated rugby and football at school and if my kids feel the same way, I couldn't care less. Some people just don't suit it, don't have the co-ordination for it and it's supposed to be fun, and if it isn't, kids shouldn't be doing it.

2. So, what? Sport is economically destructive, especially at the elite level of Olympic sport. People dedicate years of their lives, remortgage houses to pay for coaches, equipment and so forth so that their kid can win a gold medal and then maybe get a couple of years of not especially well paid endorsement opportunities afterwards. And the rewards are only for the winners, not the hundreds of kids who never make it. If the rich want to make themselves poorer playing with a hobby, let them.

3. Which is correlation, not causation. Well-funded schools fund both the lab and the rowing lake. They also generally have parents who've worked to get them into a good school and are committed to seeing them get good results.

4. True. I know someone who is the squash teacher at a private school in Gloucestershire. Squash.

5. Because the Olympic system of funding is rigged towards sports that we're most likely to win something at, which are either obscure sports that no-one cares about winning, including lots of sports with high equipment costs such as yachting, rowing and showjumping that mean you aren't competing with Africans, Jamaicans and Kazakhs. And the people who do things like rowing and showjumping often go to private schools.  The right thing to do would be to stop that on the basis that the state shouldn't fund people's hobbies, but government loves a bit of jingoism now and again, regardless of how worthless the baubles are, so won't stop doing it.


Mark Wadsworth said...

Agreed, of course.

Quiet_Man said...

Tbh, I'd rather kids did sports than be dragged into mosques to be brainwashed into that religion of peace crap that they appear to be force fed these days.

Curmudgeon said...

Totally agreed. Sport in school often seems geared to humiliating the kids with less aptitude for it and may put them off any kind of exercise for life.

Maths and English are essential life skills. Football isn't.

Tim Almond said...

Mark - thanks
Quiet_man - well, OK, but that's a pretty low bar
Curmudgeon - I didn't get humiliated, I just didn't take part much. I'd always opt for goalkeeper, (which I was actually quite good at), rather than running around after a ball. And the thing of tying it into the Olympics reeks of those old East German programmes.

Anonymous said...

Agree with that. Orwell linked the rise of school aports with rise of nationalism in the latter part of the 19thC. It got out of hand somewhere along the way. Frankly, going to football games in the 70's was often little more than tribal warfare. One way or another playing or watching sports can easily substitute for real warfare, which might be a good thing if it didn't actually lead directly to warfare on the odd occasion.

Tim Almond said...


I didn't know that, but I've only read some Orwell and like his writing very much. Do you have a reference?

We drink American branded drinks, Australian booze, watch Korean TVs and holiday in France and Spain. International sport, rivalry between nations can feel a bit forced when we're so intertwined. That said, football played at its highest level is a thing of beauty.

DBC Reed said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
DBC Reed said...

I think the point is that private schools get to spend a lot more on everything than do State schools, so its hardly surprising that they have better sports facilities like astroturf pitches and what have you.Eton's fees are £35,000 pa so its hardly surprising that their rowing set-up was used in the London Olympics.
Its the whole concept of private education that's unjust as Alan Bennett has recently explained.You either want to give rich kids a better chance in life or you don't.

Mark Wadsworth said...

"the Olympic system of funding is rigged towards sports that we're most likely to win something at, which are either obscure sports that no-one cares about winning, including lots of sports with high equipment costs such as yachting, rowing and showjumping that mean you aren't competing with Africans, Jamaicans and Kazakhs."

So the England football team doesn't stand much of a chance in sunny Brazil this year, does it?

DBC can slag off the posh kids all he likes, it's not like t'other end of the social spectrum do us proud, is it?

Furor Teutonicus said...

I can quite proudly say, I held the county record for, from my first day at school until my last,NEVER having participated in turning the "sport teacher" on, by running around in shorts pretending to chase a ball, or any other form of "equipment."

Until the army, I NEVER participated in "sport," And I STILL hate ALL forms of it to this day.

Only wankers and queers, or both, "play," or watch, sport.

DBC Reed said...

MW tries to have it both ways by supporting the sport is trivial argument then makes class based sneers at, presumably, the awful oiks in the England football team.
If a rough background is the issue, Luis Suarez fills the bill better by having a really tough upbringing that seems to have done him more good than the comparatively stable early lives of the England stars.
I am not slagging off rich kids on a personal basis: I am just saying that national political policy should not be distorted to produce an elite class from inherited wealth (using Picketty's criteria).The results: third raters like Cameron Osborne and Boris Johnson, all-purpose monied footlers like those who run the FA and the Premier League where thanks to ruthless laissez faire very few Brit footballers get a game. Obviously talentless footlers better serve the big corporate interest.
The Orwell reference is to the Sporting Spirit a Tribune article
marking the visit of the Moscow Dynamoes which was written up to suit the needs of the British militarised state that was turning on its erstwhile allies (who in fact won the war for us).
It is a laughable article but is mainly concerned with international sport not non -representative sport in schools.

Tim Almond said...


The England team never stands much of chance for simple numeric reasons. We're a smaller population than most winners and when you consider how we also have 2 other team sports we don't have that much chance.

You look at the teams that regularly get to world cup final - it's Brazil, Italy and Germany, countries with much bigger populations and without other major team sports.

England should have done better than going out in the group rounds, but realistically, we generally go out in Round 2 or the quarter finals. I think we've played badly, but we're rarely that much better, rarely playing more than a scrappy game.

Tim Almond said...


"The results: third raters like Cameron Osborne and Boris Johnson, all-purpose monied footlers like those who run the FA and the Premier League where thanks to ruthless laissez faire very few Brit footballers get a game. Obviously talentless footlers better serve the big corporate interest."

I've heard this so many times over the past few days, so I challenge you or anyone else to produce the evidence that the England side has performed worse in the 22 years since the premiership was formed (1992-2014) than the 22 years previously (1970-1992).

Mark Wadsworth said...

TS, population doesn't have that much impact.

There have only been seven different countries in the World Cup final since 1970:

West Germany/Germany

Only Brazil has a much larger population than the UK,

West Germany, Italy and France are about the same. United Germany is one-third bigger.

Spain and Argentina are a bit smaller and Netherlands is a lot smaller.

And countries with huge populations like China, USA, Russia, India, Pakistan, Indonesia etc don't do particularly well, do they?

Curmudgeon said...

"The England team never stands much of chance for simple numeric reasons."

Uruguay. Cough, cough.

And, before anyone pipes up that it was a one-off, I'd bet the current Uruguay team (with Suarez playing) would beat the current England team four times out of five.

DBC Reed said...

Won Final in 1966;
reached semi-final in 1990 and lost on penalties.
2013/14 less than a quarter of Premiership top-four club players were qualified to play for England.
Mind you , I enjoyed the way England played especially against Italy.
No shame in going out playing with a 4-2-4 formation with four forwards trying to play football.
Isn't British sport supposed to produce grace under pressure ; the rueful acceptance of perhaps underserved defeat? "Gentlemanly conduct" figured in the FA rules when I was a referee.Our little lads upfront behaved like gentlemen .(I would have whacked Godin and probably the referee)

Tim Almond said...


But Argentina mostly succeeded by having Maradona (and in 1978 by rigging the tournament). You get a player like that, it boosts your chances. Same as Portugal with Figo.

That said, the Netherlands does seem to screw with my theory. And I can't explain Spain's dominance of 3 tournaments followed by an unceremonial exit.

Russia, China, USA and India aren't into football in a big way. It's definitely growing in the USA, though.

Yes, but that doesn't mean that consistently, Uruguay does well. From '74 to 2006, they did very little. It's only since Suarez that they've done well.

Anonymous said...

@The Stigler. Found that Orwell piece:
The Sporting Spirit.

Furor Teutonicus said...

Only wankers and queers, or both, "play," or watch, sport.

Lola said...

There are good physical development reasons to encourage running and jumping about by children. I also happen to think that learning 'how to play a [the] game' is a useful bit of life training. But, and it's a big but, I don't think making any subject compulsory is any business at all for the State. It's a denial of liberty. Better to make the MW (endorsed by me) educational voucher thingie a reality in order that school, school curriculum and pupil can be matched. It is perfectly possible to construct a physical training curriculum to suit those who don't like, for example, football (me for instance).

Lola said...

FT. I do not accept that. The whole point of sport - especially amateur sport - is that it is, well, pointless. It provides a challenge outside one's other life and often an escape. It can also supply a social life, look at the number of relatively elderly who play bowls.

The challenge is the thing. Even for the very best. And for amateurs it is a constant test. I am by no means a 'sportsman' but in the particular discipline that has seduced me it is that, (and beating the other bloke(s)) that is an endless fascination.

Tim Almond said...


I don't have a problem with physical development. I enjoyed swimming and walking as a kid. My favourite time doing PE at school was when we had a couple of terms trying sports like judo, hockey and water polo (and I found I was quite good at hockey). Some people may prefer to do ballet which is pretty good physical exercise.

Lola said...

TS, I think that we are agreeing - as you have confessed to liking (I divine that for your statement that you say you quite liked it) hockey, a competitive team game.

This brings me back to my contention that by using ed. vouchers curricula can be set to suit individual preference.

Bayard said...

2) I wonder how much the Great State School playing field sell-off is responsible for this.

Lola said...

Apropos, possibly:-

And 'of course' men are attracted to women's sport for precisely the same reason.

Tim Almond said...



If you've got Olympic events like rowing or yachting, you're mostly going to get posh kids doing them (Steve Redgrave isn't, but the rest of the squad were all at Eton).

The medals won by the posh kids were all what can best be described as the "soft" medals. The "hard" golds like the heptathlon, 10000m, Long Jump and Men's Tennis were all won by people who went to comprehensives.

With the exception of 1980 and 1984, we've not done well at the Olympics in the hard golds for nearly a century. We've only started doing well in the soft golds by throwing money at competitors, effectively doing the same shit that the DDR did in the 70s that we then considered as cheating.

And the policy of selling off school playing fields has always been a disingenuous campaign to poke a stick at Thatcher. In reality, it was about schools selling off excess land. My senior school sold off the bottom of its "levels" and still has a big enough playing space for a game of cricket. It meant they could build a new science block.