Sport is about the losers too

7th April 2006 at 01:00
Those behind the first UK School Games in Glasgow in September are trumpeting "huge long-term benefits for British sport", a "lasting legacy of success" and an increased profile for each nation to show what it is doing to improve physical education and sport. It would be churlish to criticise such an apparently worthy event, but none the less it is likely to divert political attention from the crucial issues in school sport where Scotland continues to struggle.

Let's be clear: this is about the London Olympics, which will bring huge long-term benefits for that city. Indeed there are those who claim lottery funding for the Olympics will drain cash from Scottish sport. They have a point. If this is about grooming potential elite athletes for the Olympics six years down the line, is it an effective approach? It might be, although school associations already run national championships in the two leading events of swimming and athletics.

This is not a showcase for school sport and will do little to jolt teenage girls out of their negativity (page six) towards physical activity and sport. That is what school sport is about. Any "school" initiative must be judged against its ability to encourage more young people to be involved in more healthy lifestyles. This needs organisation and investment in each school at a far greater level than we have so far witnessed. Compare, for example, the recent cash spent on enterprise in education, or Scottish spending on school sport against that in England.

As we reported in February, funding for extra-curricular sport in secondaries has been cut and transferred to the primary sector to fund more active school co-ordinators. As local authority managers told researchers, any extra benefits from the work in primaries will be wasted unless there is more time in secondaries for sport. This means staff and cash.

At elite level, the Scottish Institute of Sport has made an impact over recent years. But these are the young people who would have been involved anyway. We must not forget the majority.

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