Sport to face inspection every year
Iain Sproat, the sports minister, told the House of Commons last week: "For the first time, the Office for Standards in Education is going to report on sport within the national curriculum and on sport outside the national curriculum."
He said the follow-up document to last year's report, Sport: raising the game, would blaze a trail for pupils through school, clubs and centres of excellence to the Government's proposed national academy of sport.
The document, to be published next month, will require every school to state its sporting aims in its prospectus from September. Annual reports must say what team games have been played and the results of competitions. They should also cover coaching, facilities, the time devoted to sport and any sponsorship links the school has with clubs and local businesses.
The chief inspector will issue a yearly report on sport in an effort to monitor standards.
"Some people have said that the teaching of sport is no worse now than it has ever been. It was extremely difficult to prove anything but, clearly, standards have fallen, shockingly in my view. Now we will be able to see how far they have fallen," said Mr Sproat.
David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Headteachers, was not opposed to inspections of extra-curricular sport. But he was concerned that OFSTED would make value judgments without taking into account a school's circumstances.
The Office for Standards in Education would also report on teacher training to ensure teachers understood the importance of sport. From the next academic year all physical education students must be able to teach one mainstream winter and summer sport, Mr Sproat said. All teacher-training students will be urged to take coaching qualifications. The Sports Council is giving the National Coaching Foundation an extra Pounds 1 million.
The Sportsmark scheme to encourage high standards will start in October and the first will be awarded next April. To qualify for an award a school should provide a minimum of two hours' timetabled PE a week, plus at least four hours of organised sport outside lessons; teachers should gain coaching qualifications and schools should establish links with sports clubs.
Mr Sproat reminded the Commons that the Sports Council had relaxed its National Lottery rules so that schools in poorer areas will only have to raise 10 per cent of the cost of projects from this autumn, up to 80 per cent of the cost of school projects in general can come from lottery funds.
In a rare moment of candour, he admitted that the Government's policy of giving local education authorities and schools freedom to sell land had "the unforeseen consequence that too many acres of school sports grounds were sold".
The Sports Council will be made a statutory consultee to sales so that no more sports ground is lost without its say-so, the minister said, adding that the council is to conduct a national audit of sports facilities.
In the meantime, Euro MPs are to investigate excessive coaching of young athletes, especially gymnasts. The European parliament's intersports group is inviting experts from eastern Europe to address its members in the early autumn to see if there is serious cause for concern. n The National Lottery should provide Pounds 10 million a year for university sports scholarships out of Pounds 30 million which should be earmarked for elite athletes, a working group chaired by Sir Roger Bannister has recommended.