Michael Gove Approves Selling 21 School Playing Fields Despite Olympics Legacy Pledge

School Playing Fields To Be Sold Despite Olympics Legacy Promise

More than 20 schools are to lose their playing fields after it emerged the Coalition had approved selling the green spaces despite pledging an Olympic legacy for children.

The shocking statistics were revealed in a Freedom of Information (FOI) request submitted by the Guardian and offered an explanation for culture secretary Jeremy Hunt's musings on Monday that school sports provision is "patchy".

The news of the sell-off contradicts a pledge by the Coalition to protect school playing fields. It had said it would "support the creation of an annual Olympic-style schools sport event to encourage competitive sport in schools, and we will seek to protect school playing fields".

In total, 21 out of 22 requests have been given the go ahead by the Department for Education (DfE) in the past two years, with one more still being considered.

On Friday, school sports provision came under fire from Lord Moynihan, chairman of the British Olympic Association, who said private-school dominance of the 2012 Games was "unacceptable".

Among the pitches approved for disposal is a 1.6 acre playing field at the Winchcombe School, a state primary in Newbury, Berkshire, which has been put up for sale with outline planning permission for housing.

The DfE insisted that the sell-off of school playing fields will only be agreed if schools' sports needs can continue to be met.

Information obtained by the Labour party through FOIs show there has been a 60% reduction in the number of hours dedicated to organising school sport and 37% of school sports partnerships have disappeared.

Between 1979 and 1997, more than 10,000 playing fields were sold off under a Conservative government but after legislation introduced by Labour in 1998 to protect such fields, only 226 applications to sell off fields were granted.

Clive Efford MP, shadow minister for culture, Olympics, media and sport, told The Huffington Post UK: "We seem to be moving backwards. At a time where we are expecting more people to get into sport, it is ridiculous playing fields are being put up for sale."

The DfE later said that of the 21 playing fields approved for sale, 14 were at schools that had closed, and a further four were deemed surplus after existing schools amalgamated.

Of the other three, one was extra grassland at a school site, one was leased to a company for it to redevelop and improve a playing field and the third was due to be leased to an athletics club, although this did not go ahead.


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