Saturday, August 04, 2012

Olympian overhaul...

"Olympics 'dominated by privately educated'" screams the headline. I ask how many of those Chinese, US, Korean, Kazakh, and Russian athletes are privately educated. Not so: Conservative politician Lord Moynihan, Chairman of the British Olympic Association [BOA] (and a gold medal winner himself: cocks cox) says that the number of British medallists that were educated at independent schools was one of the "worst statistics in British sport"; he was on about the percentage of Beijing medal winners over half of whom were from the 7% of the UK population that are privately educated. A 'Future priority' must be identifying and developing the talent from the other 93%. I would say that the fact that "The vast majority of Britain's athletes competing in London 2012 were state-educated" [DT] shows things are already being done. Readdressing my sarcastic comment about the other countries: very few sports these days, at elite level, are simple or cheap; apart from natural talent and parental (and/or coach) support and encouragement to get the ball rolling, it takes time and money and dedication; and then more time and money and time and money and dedication. (gratuitous sexy photo of Victoria Pendleton, click for a better view)

Update: "But is the under-representation of state-school-educated athletes in Britain's Olympic medal table really down to the sharp elbows of the posh? Or is it down to the retiring of the competitive ethos and the rise of a culture of low expectations in state schools themselves? I think it's the latter. [so do I!!] Just as state-school pupils are no longer considered capable of learning Latin or of reading too many classic texts that are not "relevant" to their lives, so they are also considered incapable of handling the pressures of competitive sport. On many state-school playing fields, all-out, hardcore competition, the ideal of being the best and proving you are the best, is frowned upon as inappropriate, as potentially giving rise to an unacceptable social divide between "winners" and "losers". State-school sports lessons are now more about boosting kids' self-esteem and shrinking their waistlines than about encouraging them to be singular, head-strong winners – and that is not conducive to creating future Olympians." Brendan O'Neill, State School attitudes...[Link]


Paul said...

This is a real dilema for the Conservative part of the coalition, given that they sold off an awful lot of school fields and Michael Gove thinks sports is something you need clearisil for.

Disagree with what Brendan O'Neill says and can't help thinking he's another journalist stuck inside the M25 when he talks about sport. Toby Young wrote about this the other week on his blog, saying much the same thing about the latin and the classics and how kids are told to lower their expectations - nothing new there by the way I was told that in 1975! but sport in schools is actually thriving.

Those sports where we have done well in the first seven days need to have better access for state schools. There are plenty of rowing, sailing and cycling clubs where youngsters can go but these tend to be outside of school hours. They aren't elite or elitist sports but when you say that you need a £20,000 kayak or a road bike that costs £24,500 to compete at the highest level you may be excluding those who would like to actually start at the bottom.

Span Ows said...

Yes, this is definitely a government problem rather than Labour did this, Conservatives did that. Over the last 3 or 4 decades things have definitely changed. I'm afraid I agree with Brendan, 'Sport in schools is thriving' is true but it is very subjective: it isn't the same as the 'thriving' nor 'sports' as when I was at school when it was all about being better and winning.

Anonymous said...

Just as state-school pupils are no longer considered capable of learning Latin

This is the sort of ill-informed tosh about state education that is reproduced time and again without anyone actually checking.

Go to teh London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, one of the most deprived in the country, and see what they are doing there. It is offered in schools in Essex, and right across the country.

Span Ows said...

Hi Anon, I agree but things like 'Just as state-school pupils are no longer considered capable of learning Latin' are always generalisations: Latin is still taught, Greek as well, sports is still strong (but a lot less than previous generations).

Span Ows said...

...meant to add

but this is not the norm.