Olympics: Ministers seek to boost 'patchy' sports provision


Hunt: "It's important to have some perspective - we're third in the medals table"

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School sports provision is "patchy" and ministers want to boost participation on the back of Team GB's Olympic success, the culture secretary says.

Jeremy Hunt said ministers wanted to ensure the "best examples are spread throughout the country" and have backed an Olympic-style event for schools.

His comments come after the British Olympic Association (BOA) called for a "step change" in sports policy.

Meanwhile, GB's showjumpers have won gold after a jump-off with the Dutch.

The four-man team - Nick Skelton, Ben Maher, Scott Brash and Peter Charles - secured Great Britain's first showjumping gold since the 1952 Helsinki Games by posting the best three scores out of four.

Team GB gymnast Beth Tweddle earlier won a bronze medal in the uneven bars final.

The 27-year old has held four world titles and is the most decorated British gymnast but this final is likely to be her last appearance at international level.

Elsewhere, a 34-year old man has pleaded not guilty to a public order offence, after a bottle was thrown onto the track at the start of the men's Olympic 100m final on Sunday.

Ashley Gill-Webb, from South Milford near Leeds, was granted conditional bail at Stratford Magistrates' Court and told he would face trial at Thames Magistrates' Court on 3 September.

Olympic legacy

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Mr Hunt, said "primary schools is where it all starts and catching people young is incredibly important" but he accepted pupils faced "an element of luck", for example in terms of having an inspirational teacher.

"At the moment school sport provision is patchy in some places and we need to do what we can to make sure that the very best examples are spread throughout the whole country and this is absolutely going to be a focus over the next few months and one of the things we really want to take away from these Games," he said.

Olympics coverage online

Olympics images

The Department for Education allocates funding for school sports provision in England, while the devolved administrations take on the responsibility in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Downing Street said the government was committed to ensuring the Games had a lasting legacy and was spending £1bn on a five-year youth sports strategy.

Asked whether the funding for grassroots sports would remain the same, a spokesman said it did not intend to "conduct a spending review now".

Liz Nicholl, chief executive of UK Sport, the body responsible for allocating public funding to elite athletes, told the BBC the success of any high performance system "depends on the right level of investment".

"We can provide those inspirational moments through the success of the athletes in order to inspire the youngsters, but we do have to invest in schools, in teachers, in coaches, in talent to achieve that success," she added.

Labour says coalition cuts have "destroyed" its efforts.

In other developments:

The weekend saw Team GB pick up eight gold medals after wins for the likes of Andy Murray in tennis and Jessica Ennis in the heptathlon.

Lord Moynihan said inspiration needed to be "translated into participation".

Olympic TV viewing figures

  • 20 million people watched Usain Bolt retain the 100m title - the highest audience of the live sporting action so far
  • Mo Farah's 10,000 metre triumph peaked at 17.1 million
  • The climax of the heptathlon with Jessica Ennis taking gold pulled in an audience of 16.3 million
  • Swimmer Rebecca Adlington's bronze in the 800m final attracted an audience of 11.3 million
  • Andy Murray's win over Roger Federer at Wimbledon - to clinch gold in the men's singles tennis - was seen by a peak audience of 10.7 million
  • The Olympics Opening Ceremony peaked at 26.9 million at 9.45pm, with over 20 million people still watching at midnight

Mr Hunt told the BBC Team GB was third in the Olympics medals table and this showed the model of funding sport through the National Lottery set up by the Tories in the 1990s had been a "great success".

He said "other countries are now looking at our sport funding model and seeing what they can learn".

He said the School Games, which saw primaries and secondaries from across the UK compete against each other at the Olympic Park in May, attracted about half of all schools.

Former sports minister Richard Caborn said Lord Moynihan had overlooked Labour's investment in sport.

Lord Coe, London 2012 chairman, told a news conference that "solid and strong legacy foundations" were in now place and the government needed to "recognise that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" to capitalise on the increase in sporting interest.

The double Olympic gold medal winner said he was initially inspired to take up running by a geography teacher who "spotted in me clearly a talent that wasn't being fully expressed on the football pitch or the rugby pitch".


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  • rate this

    Comment number 394.

    I totally agree. Schools can no longer create sports stars of the future. Major investment is needed, especially in areas hardest hit by the recession,where facilities are often sparse or too costly for the average family. It is risible to promote "Sport for All" without the promise of government funding for huge numbers of children who are currently have no way to get started.

  • rate this

    Comment number 390.

    I am a primary teacher who is passionate about the Olympics and was lucky to be involve in a wonderful sports partnership in which the children at my school flourished in sport.The partnertship highlighted potential talent.
    However, if Seb Coe is listening - it is here where the funding must come back as that will inspire the future of tomorrow - the aim of the Olympics!

  • rate this

    Comment number 388.

    As headteacher of a London primary school, this topic and the pontificating of politicians from all parties, always annoys me. The primary curriculum has been over-loaded with subjects and teachers have been expected to concentrate on 'improving' standards....which has generally meant concentrating on English and maths and teaching children how to pass SATs tests at the end of their primary years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 383.

    All this grand talk about legacy and sport in London is just that. I live in Westminster and am surrounded by Royal Parks but my kid's school has a 30m square playground and he has to go to Battersea for its annual sports "day" (2 hrs). How can one of the richest boroughs in the world devote so little to children? Swimming is a joke too; 8 quid to take my six year old.

  • rate this

    Comment number 380.

    School sport provision is only 'Patchy' because the coalition government removed 'School Sport Co-ordinators'. SSCO teachers were the life blood of sport in the Primary schools all over the country. Within East Dorset, SSCO's enabled us to offer First School children: Golf, High 5 netball,athletics (at a stadium),gymnastics,dance,football,tag rugby,x-country & swimming! The decline has started.


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