Sport is unlikely to be the state sector's No.1 priority

16th November 2012 at 00:00
Poverty is a more pressing concern than preparing pupils for future Olympics

Interesting question: why is it that so many of our successful Olympians hailed from private schools? It was with some interest that I particularly noticed an email alert from TES posing this very question, for it was one I had been considering myself as medal after medal was won and the educational backgrounds of the winners came to light.

We need to ask ourselves, I suppose, whether state and private schools have the same priorities for their pupils. I suspect if you asked any headteachers, no matter what sector they work in, they would say that their priority for each child is that he or she should be enabled to reach their full potential in all aspects of the curriculum - and they would not be lying. This is what everyone in education wants for our young people.

So why the difference? Some will argue that the state curriculum is full of more "stuff" than the private sector; that if you're busy having to teach "fancy" things like citizenship and personal search and anti-racism, then you clearly have less time for teaching PE.

Some will argue that the ethos of the state school is not one that encourages competition; some say this with pride and others with disdain.

Some will argue, and I am one of them, that when it comes down to it, really down to it, that those who teach in the state sector have far more fundamental priorities that require to be addressed first, and that the roots of these problems lie in poverty, be it at the personal level within families or at the level of funding available to local authorities.

In terms of education and health, I suspect that the private sector is unlikely to have as many pupils with as great a range of needs as the public sector. This is what poverty brings to our state schools.

I suspect that the private-sector schools have far superior PE facilities than state schools, in terms of both quantity and quality. This is what decades of under-funding brings to our state schools.

The school in which I teach is reputed to be very lucky: it has its own football pitch - so we're using it all the time, building for 2014, right? Wrong. What should and could be a fabulous schoolcommunity facility is in fact a no-go area much of the time. The metre-high weeds cover the red blaes; the huge advertising hoardings that surround the pitch merely serve as screening for those whose covert leisure pursuits are clearly far from healthy, as evidenced by the litter they leave behind.

Inspire a generation? How about Invest in a generation?

Carolyn Ritchie is a primary teacher in Glasgow.

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