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Burnham For Mayor

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

An open letter on school sport

Rt Hon. Michael Gove MP
Secretary of State for Education
Department of Education
Sanctuary Buildings
Great Smith Street

19th November, 2010

In response to your letter regarding school sport we thought it would be useful to clarify a number of points.

You quote from the recent 2009/2010 Taking Part survey, saying the proportion of 11-15 year olds who played sport each week fell, from 88.8% in 2008/09 to 88.0% in 2009/10. Firstly, as you know, the Taking Part survey relates to activity in general, and not specifically activity within schools, so is largely irrelevant to your argument over this investment. We would also like to point out that in the very same survey, on the previous page, the figure for the number of 11-15 year olds who played sport in the last four weeks rose from 96% to 96.7%. That is a phenomenally high percentage and demonstrates the value of investing in opportunities for children to enjoy sport within schools so that they choose to take it up outside of education.

You state that £2.4 billion was invested in school sport last year. That is incorrect as the investment took place over the last seven years, and represented the largest investment into our children’s health and activity in schools by any government to date. Further, you state that despite £2.4 billion of spending, one in five children still do not play competitive sport against other schools. Had that £2.4 billion of spend under the last government been solely aimed at increasing competitive sport we would agree with you, but the truth, as you know, is that the money funded a range of areas of PE and school sport, all of which have shown demonstrable, successful outcomes.

• The number of young people doing 2 hours of sport a week – a measure your government has stated it will keep as a benchmark – has risen from 25% in 2002 to over 90% last year.
• School to club links have multiplied from an average of 5 links per school in 2004 to 9 links last year, thanks to the single point of contact for voluntary sports clubs and National Governing Bodies that a School Sport Partnership provides.
• In 2010 1.57m young people in Years 1-13 were actively involved in sport volunteering and leadership.
• Further, the range of competitive opportunities, the number of young people taking part in them and the frequency with which they take part are all increasing year on year.

With this is mind we would like to ask what the Government’s target is for the percentage of young people playing competitive sport, in order for your investment in a School Olympics to be deemed a success? In your letter you state that a “competitive school sport revolution” will give thousands of young people the chance to take part in intra and inter school competition. Well, last year alone 3 million young people took part in inter-school competition whilst 4.8 million took part in intra-school competition. We fail to see how the ‘thousands’ of young people playing competitive sport can replace the numbers taking part as a result of competitive opportunities that exist at the moment and which have been increasing yearly.

By withdrawing Government support for School Sport Partnerships you are discounting their economies of scale, discounting the additional investment into schools that their very existence generates, but most of all discounting the many and highly successful outcomes they have produced since they began, just six years ago. Further, to cut them barely 18 months before the Olympic Games in London, at a time where there is a real chance to embed their work for future generations, is contrary to both the legacy promises made to secure the Games but also to your Government’s desire to both raise competition in schools and stage a “School Olympics”.

We urge you to work with the Youth Sports Trust to find a solution that meets the requirements of deficit reduction, and of our Olympic legacy, and that does not deprive our children of the many health, wellbeing and educational advantages they gain from school sport.

Kind regards

Andy Burnham MP
Ivan Lewis MP
Tessa Jowell MP