What keeps me awake at night - The future of sport in state schools looks bleak

20th September 2013 at 01:00

There was a time when sport was central to education, as much to tire students out as to teach them valuable skills such as teamwork, discipline, commitment and decision-making. Yet it is quickly sliding down the priority scale for school leaders and that is having a detrimental impact on access to sport for children from non-independent-sector schooling.

The trouble - and the reason the state sector is being hit harder than the independent sector - is time and money. For the state sector, sport can be costly to run, especially the larger team games. It is also time-consuming if schools want students to do it competitively, with time out of lessons for travel a necessity in some cases (the majority of state schools do not have an afternoon allocated to sport).

In my school, what is occurring with the rugby team is a prime example of these issues. Being a 15-a-side game, rugby is heavy on numbers and can take up to 20 students out of lessons, mentally and physically. In an age where every second of teaching time is monetised and assessed against league tables, this can be seen as too much of a sacrifice. Rugby is also expensive: kit and transport to games are costly and some school leaders just don't see the value.

So far, we have just about retained the support of the principal at my school, though a few comments suggest that a scaling back may be on the cards. Other schools have not been so lucky. It has become incredibly hard for our team to find state-sector opposition in rugby. This is partly down to government initiatives to run school sport competitions coming to an end - schools must now manage these themselves and physical education teachers just don't have the time. The other reason, though, is that many schools simply don't run sports teams any more.

So what is the future for competitive sport in state schools? Currently, it seems that the next generation of sports stars will emerge only from the independent sector, because it is there that sport seems to be valued and supported.

The writer is a teacher from the South of England.

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