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Olympic Legacy: There is Now Little Chance of Fulfilling Our Promise

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As we get closer to the Olympics in 2012, the promised legacy will come under increasing scrutiny.

Yesterday, BOA Chairman Colin Moynihan raised worries that many others involved in school sport are telling me; that the promise we made in Singapore to inspire a new generation of young sportsmen and women, is under threat.

Today, Dr Andrew Franklyn-Miller also suggests that physical education must be prioritised more effectively in school, otherwise our goals for the Olympics will be squandered.

I take issue with Colin that it was Labour in government who failed to push more strongly for greater participation in school sport. From 2002-2010 Labour invested year-on-year in sport in primary and secondary schools with a first stage guarantee that children would play 2 hours of sport a week, rising to 5 hours a week by 2012.

In 2003 only an estimated 44% of all 5-16 year olds participated in two hours of curriculum PE and Sport a week. After Labour introduced a universal target of two hours of PE and Sport for every young person, participation rates increased to 90% in 2009. We were also on track to achieve our more stretching target of ensuring 60% of all 5-16 year olds were participating in at least 5 hours of sport per week.

Between 2006 and 2009, the number of young people doing at least 3 or more hours of sport per week was approaching 60%, with a third doing five hours or more.

Our School Sports Partnerships mobilised 450 hub schools which delivered up to 14 different sports in primary schools led by trained teachers and coaches. SSPs were internationally recognised for reversing the trend of youth inactivity, indeed leading school sport experts from across the globe, including Australia, are looking at replicating the system. All that changed with Michael Gove's decision to remove the dedicated status of sports funding, reducing it overall by 65%. The Coalition has also abolished the annual School Sports Survey which means that we don't know whether the cuts they have made to the school sports budget has had the impact anecdotally we think it has.

According to an article earlier this year, only 55% of School Sports Partnership 'hub' schools have retained the level of support for local schools as they had enjoyed previously. Moreover, fewer than a third of state schools in September had signed up to the replacement for Labour's SSPs - the School Games - according to research for The Observer in September.

Mr Moynihan is right to say that the problem lies with the lack of a ring-fence for the funding that still does exist. When schools are finding themselves stuck for cash for other areas of spending - such as on support for ethnic minority pupils who require extra help - without ring-fencing money for sport, it is likely that it might be used for other areas of spending.

Finally, after an outcry from pupils, teachers and sportspeople about the cuts to school sport funding, the government promised every secondary school funding to pay for one day a week of a PE teacher's time to be spent out of the classroom, encouraging greater take-up of competitive sport in local primary schools. So far it seems that the funding has arrived late and there is little guidance to schools as to how it should be spent.

Once again, it appears that the government have failed to appreciate that school sports do not happen by accident.

They require dedicated teachers with specific targets to ensure that young people have the opportunity to take-up, not simply competitive sport, but a wide range of physical activity. It is indeed a shame that not more of our Olympic athletes come from state schools - School Sports Partnerships were helping to change that reality.

There is now little chance of fulfilling our second major legacy promise - to transform a generation of young people through sport. It's time for them to think again about how to guarantee this crucial part of what is meant to be a long-lasting triumph for Britain.

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