'Tokenistic' awards to boost uptake of sport and PE scrapped for a year

4th December 2009 at 00:00
Doubts over validity of marks prompt review and ambitious 'five hours a week' plan

A key supporter of the Government's Sportsmark and Activemark awards, handed out in recognition of a school's commitment to PE, has labelled them as "tokenistic" - just two and a half years ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games.

Steve Grainger, chief executive of the Youth Sport Trust, one of the main organisations behind the drive to increase the uptake of PE in schools to two hours a week, has admitted the awards will not be handed out this year.

Speaking to The TES, Mr Grainger said a new award next year will focus on recognising schools that have helped pupils to achieve five hours or more participation in PE and sport. This is despite Prime Minister Gordon Brown launching a #163;100 million campaign for schools to provide five hours in 2007.

"Schools were completing the schools sports survey and from this data they would get a Sportsmark or Activemark award through the post - it was a bit tokenistic," he said.

"Schools do value it, but we realised we needed to have a clearer idea of the criteria, so we recommended a review and took a year's time out. We asked what it was we wanted schools to be aspiring towards, and so decided to concentrate on the five-hour offer."

The Department for Children, Schools and Families says schools will be allowed to carry over their Sportsmark and Activemark awards from 2008 until the new award programme starts in 2010.

A DCFS spokesman said: "Ministers have recently agreed a recommendation to suspend the awarding of Activemark and Sportsmark to schools in 2009, pending the development of a new award based on the new five-hour offer of PE and sport."

The new awards programme will be based on a slightly amended school sports survey, as well as random sampling of schools' PE and sports provision.

The decision has been described as "astounding" by one sports manager who did not want to be named but is responsible for co-ordinating the sports and PE provision in more than 30 primary and secondary schools in the South of England.

"There were serious doubts over the validity of the data provided by schools when it came to the two-hour offer of PE - now they are trying to up the offering," he said.

"The Government trumpeted that 90 per cent of schools are achieving two hours, but these figures are being fudged. They rely on a written survey or, when a visit is made to a sample school, a simple show of hands from a class."

He added that the reality "seriously undermines" the Government's drive to increase sports participation ahead of the Olympics.

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