Memorandum by Mr Graham Readfearn (PH
Graham Readfearn is a journalist for the Yorkshire
He has been largely responsible for researching
and writing a series of articles called A Sporting Chance, a continuing
campaign to highlight the decline of sport and PE in schools.
A number of concerns prompted the Yorkshire
Post to launch the campaign.
For the vast majority of youngsters, their first
introduction to physical exercise and sport come during their
days at school.
Regular exercise is acknowledged to be an effective
factor in combating heart disease and a key factor in developing
a healthy lifestyle.
However, the Yorkshire Post was struck by the
findings of a number of pieces of research in the past few years
which showed a clear and worrying decline in both the quantity
and quality of physical education and sports activity in our schools.
Prompted by this research, some of which is
outlined in this memoranda, the Yorkshire Post embarked on its
Sporting Chance campaign to revive sport and PE in schools.
We contend that successive Governments have
paid lip-service to the value of school sport while presiding
over its decline.
We sought the reasons for this decline. We questioned
world experts in physical education, more than 50 influential
sporting figures both nationally and in Yorkshire and also sought
the views of politicians from all political parties.
Importantly, we sought the views of almost 400
We wrote to them with a questionnaire and asked
them for their views and support and their response amounted to
a scathing attack on the state of school sport.
Some 55 per cent said they were either pessimistic
or very pessimistic about the future of their subject.
Eighty-eight per cent said pressure on curriculum
time because of the emphasis on maths and English was a major
factor in the subject's decline and 76 per cent said the current
time allowed was not enough to give children a proper grounding
in sport and PE.
Embarrassingly, 39 per cent had not heard about
the Government's sports strategy, launched just weeks earlier,
and 41 per cent of those who had heard about it, thought it would
have only a minor impact.
In our campaign, we suggested a number of measures
which we felt would improve the prospects for sport and PE in
schools. These are also discussed here.
We continue to highlight areas of good practice,
where teachers and other individuals have, despite a negative
backdrop, embraced sport and PE in their school and are reaping
the educational rewards.
As the campaign continues, we are also aiming
to make a difference in our own area, by providing free sports
equipment to schools and coaching to primary school teachers and
creating a web site for teachers, youngsters and parents to celebrate
school sport in Yorkshire.
We hope the committee will acknowledge that
good quality provision for sport and PE is a key factor in a healthy
lifestyle. We feel this is at risk.
1. Earlier researchPresented here
are a selection of sourced facts, statistics and statements used
as part of the Yorkshire Post Sporting Chance campaign which all
bear on a reduction of physical activity among youngsters.
1.1 Only 11 per cent of children aged 6-8
spend two or more hours in PE lessons a week, compared with 32
per cent in 1994. (Source: Sport England February 2000.)
1.2 Only 21 per cent of children aged 9-11
spend more than two hours in PE lessons a week, compared with
46 per cent in 1994. (Sport England February 2000.)
1.3 Some 95 per cent of primary schools
have no full time PE specialist and 86 per cent have no part-time
specialist either. (Sport England February 2000.)
1.4 A quarter of all teachers say sports
facilities are inadequate. (Sport England, February 2000.)
1.5 Children spend 7.5 hours on sport/exercise,
11.4 hours watching television and 4.4 hours playing computer
games. (Sport England February 2000.)
1.6 One third of primary schools have reduced
time for PE during the last school year, half losing 30 minutes
a week and a further 20 per cent lost an hour. (Sport and Physical
Education Network August 1999.)
1.7 One third of primary schools say there
is insufficient support for teachers to become confident and competent
in teaching PE. (Sport and Physical Education Network August 1999.)
1.8 A quarter of primary schools have insufficient
qualified PE staff. (Sport and Physical Education Network August
1.9 Experienced teachers of PE say the future
of the subject has never looked so bleak. (Sport and Physical
Education Network August 1999.)
1.10 Just under half of secondary PE heads
said traditional outdoor sports had been eroded by the take up
of indoor facilities. (Stadia Sports Ltd survey February 2000.)
1.11 More than half of Britain's youngsters
fail to do the minimum recommended level of exercise for their
age. (Haris poll for Norwich Union Healthcare, 1998.)
1.12 Obesity in the last 10 years has doubled
in six-year-olds and trebled in 15-year-olds. (Reilly J J and
Dorosty A R Epidemic of obesity in UK childrenThe Lancet
2. PRIMARY SCHOOL
Many primary school teachers lack the confidence
to deliver quality games and PE lessons in their schools because
during their four-year teacher training, some get as little as
six hours learning about PE.
This means that unless individuals are predisposed
to physical activities, they will either shy away from delivering
it or do it in a way which does not properly teach our youngsters
the basics of running, jumping, catching or hitting a ball.
If youngsters are not taught properly these
basics, it can restrict the enjoyment they get from a game or
activity, thus reducing the chances of them taking it on outside
school and developing a "healthy habit" to take into
secondary school and adulthood.
Also, this develops an environment where youngsters
do not really know why they are doing somethingfor example
that stretching helps them to avoid injury or that cardio-vascular-based
activities are good for themand so does not encourage them
to continue. We discovered that Sport England's Top Sport programme
is attempting to address this skills gap by providing kit, lesson
plans and coaching to primary school teachers and we feel this
programme should be encouraged.
The Government must intervene to ensure that,
through the Teacher Training Agency, trainee teachers in primary
schools are given enough time to become confident in learning
the basics of delivering quality PE lessons to youngsters.
According to Prof. Margaret Talbot, head of
sport at Leeds Metropolitan University and a genuine world expert
on physical education, children spend more time out of school
caring for their family or in part-time jobs than they do in front
of the television or computer screen.
And, according to Sport England, each week children
spend 7.5 hours on sport/exercise, 11.4 hours watching television
and 4.4 hours playing computer games.
Many of these children do have commitments after
school and so developments for extra-curricular sport are not
within their reach.
It is essential then, that these children get
regular exercise while in school. But the facts as represented
in 1.1, 1.2 and 1.6 of this evidence show this is not happening.
In 1998, Education Secretary David Blunkett
suspended the detailed orders for PE in the national curriculum
at key stages one and two.
At the same time, he introduced literacy and
numeracy hours and continued to support league tables which gauge
schools performance on results in these areas.
Headteachers no longer had to follow the curriculum
guidelines for PE and were free to teach the subject however they
Under pressure to perform in literacy and numeracy,
they were left with a difficult choice and understandably PE was
not a priorityas it obviously was not a priority for the
According to research carried out in 1995, before
the national curriculum was suspended at primary school level,
Britain gave school children an average of 105 minutes of PE a
weekbehind Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Slovakia, Hungary,
Estonia, Switzerland, Luxembourg and France.
It is still too early to assess the damage caused
to the PE profession during this period of suspension of the curriculum,
which reverts back to full curriculum guidelines in September
While nobody argues against the benefits of
a literate and numerate nation, that the Government helps to redress
an imbalance by allowing schools the time during school hours
to deliver at least two hours of PE a week and thus deliver a
more rounded child, in an educational sense.
It is a myth that the teacher stood on the touchline
on a Saturday morning/Tuesday evening, coaching his sports team,
is getting paid for it.
Since the industrial action of the late 80s
and early 90s, some teachers who had for years given up their
time free of charge finally withdrew their goodwill. Many have
PE teachers and non-specialist teachers who
do coach in their own time continue to be ignored by the Government
while they watch their peers being paid to take after-school homework
clubs and SAT preparation sessions.
There are still thousands of teachers who give
up their time to support sport, not only at their school, but
in the wider community. In France, these teachers are paid for
That the Government reward teachers for the
free time they give up to coach our youngsters.
5. SPORTS FIELDS
Inevitably with an every growing population,
there has got to be areas of open space found to make way for
housing. Thousands of sports fields have been sold off since the
early 80s, when a Conservative Government actively encouraged
schools to sell off their fields by allowing Grant Maintained
schools to keep 100 per cent of the profits from sales, where
the figure had previously been 50 per cent.
Without a field or play area, children will
not seek to travel to find somewhere, but will instead hang around
on a street corner or sit indoors and watch television. There
is no way back from here and those fields cannot be brought back.
That the Government keeps its manifesto promise
to stop the sale of sports fields and to encourage local authorities
to consider that there are adequate facilities for physical activity
when granting planning permission for new developments.
6. FUNDING FOR
The British Heart Foundation has repeatedly
told us that Britain is the heart disease capital of Europe.
According to figures compiled by the Central
Council for Physical Recreation before the July 2000 Comprehensive
Spending Review, Britain's treasury gave 88p per person to sport,
compared with £3.31 in Germany, £5.16 in France and
£18.51 for every person living in Sweden.
The national lottery was hailed as a panacea
to all sports problems.
But in the last three years, lottery sales have
slumped and annually the money going to sport, through Sport England,
has fallen by £100 million from £300 million a year
That fall went unchecked by the Government,
whose treasury continued to put £34 million a year into sport
but continued to pour millions and millions into the health service.
More investment in sport would help to introduce
more people to regular exercise and reduce the need to spend millions
on a reactive rather than preventative health service.
Recommendations (written before the details
of the July 2000 Comprehensive Spending Review were revealed)
That the Government radically reviews its funding
to sport at grassroots level to create a healthier nation and
reduce the need to spend millions on the National Health Service.