Kit offer is no laughing matter

26th March 2004 at 00:00
I must point out some disparities between the report on our sports kit offer and the intentions of Ealing National Union of Teachers (TES, March 12).

We made the offer freely available to all of Ealing's schools in response to the cynical offers promoted by confectionery companies and others.

Nick Grant, branch secretary, highlighted the research showing that to qualify for a football, huge amounts of high-calorie food would have to be consumed. Hardly a recipe for a fit and healthy population.

The Ealing NUT officers felt that we should give schools an alternative, so that pupils did not feel pressured into making unhealthy lifestyle choices to get a new sports kit. We are trying to do our bit to tackle childhood obesity against a background of fast-food advertising, sedentary lifestyles and the constant sell-off of public sports facilities.

Nick made it very clear that this was not a commercial venture, as we did not expect to see any financial return. Nor did we expect to see an increase in NUT membership as a result as pupils are obviously not eligible to join the union. It is also unlikely that parents would swamp Hamilton House with requests for membership and the dedicated teacher colleagues who run sports activities in their free time are likely to be members of a teacher union anyway.

I understand that the article in The TES was probably written as a mischievous poke at the NUT's apparent hypocrisy, and the cartoon accompanying it was very witty. However, it has caused a degree of offence within Ealing NUT, and may make headteachers less likely to take up similar offers in future for fear of being pilloried in the media. At the end of the day, it's only really the kids who suffer when good-faith offers like this are withdrawn because associations and divisions worry about press coverage.

As for Doug McAvoy coming down to teach PE in Ealing once again, I think we'd best leave him to enjoy his retirement in peace.

Jamie Parkinson Division treasurer Ealing Teachers Association National Union of Teachers

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