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Tessa Jowell urges 10-year school sport plan

Category: England

Published: 9th Aug 2012 11:21:34

All political parties should sign up to a 10-year plan for school sports to ensure a London 2012 legacy, former Olympic minister Tessa Jowell has said.

She said the cross-party "sense of unity" seen in delivering the games was needed to ensure a grassroots legacy.

The government has faced criticism for approving the sale of 21 school playing fields, although ministers point out those were mostly when schools closed.

They have also pledged £1bn investment in school sports in the next few years.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Dame Tessa - culture secretary at the time London won the Olympic bid - said it was important all parties signed up to a 10-year school sports plan, stretching beyond the next general election, that ensured stability.

"What is clear is that the public want legacy. We promised in Singapore, when we won the bid, that we would inspire a generation and that would be creating sport as part of every child's life; life changing and something we'd never done before in that concerted way.

"One of the reasons the Olympics has been so successful, I think, is that in their planning and execution all the parties have worked together in the national interest and built a national consensus about how to deliver the Olympics.

"I think that sense of unity of purpose should be applied to delivering this legacy. It's not a legacy, given the decisions that were made by the secretary of state for education early in the coalition, that can be recreated and delivered without a 10-year commitment."

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.

In 2010 the government faced criticism from teachers and athletes when it cut funding for the Schools Sports Partnership programme - set up by Labour.

The programme supported joint initiatives between primary, secondary and specialist state schools designed to increase sporting opportunities for children, but ministers argued it had done too little to increase physical activity among young people.

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.

Prime Minister David Cameron has called for "a big cultural change" towards sport in schools to capitalise on Team GB's Olympic wins, with a more "competitive ethos" in the teaching of sports at school.

Discussing the legacy of the Olympics on BBC Radio 2, Mr Cameron said "bottling" the volunteering spirit seen by those working across the Olympic venues was "vital".

"There have been two great spirits of this Olympics, one has been the competitive spirit and being the best you can and the other, frankly, is the spirit of volunteering.

"One of the most impressive things I've seen at the Olympics is this army of volunteers in their great purple tracksuits who have put a smile on everybody's face."

He pledged to contact the 500,000 people who originally put their names down to volunteer at London 2012 to encourage them to take part in a new government-backed charity - Join In Local Sport.

On the weekend of 18 and 19 August, thousands of sports clubs and community groups across Britain will be hosting events as part of the Join In Weekend to "capture the enthusiasm" for sport generated by the Olympics.

Mr Cameron said it was important for Britain to maintain its system of funding and support for elite sports and praised the "very tough" funding conditions set by UK Sport - the organisation responsible for investing government money in Britain's top performers.

"I think lesson one is keep doing what we're doing; the way that elite sport has been organised and the way we back our Olympians.

"The way we have supported it has been fantastic."

Mayor of London Boris Johnson has also praised the "army of volunteers" for helping to create "such a wonderful atmosphere".

In an attempt to build on the momentum of the games and ensure a volunteering legacy in London, he has appointed Veronica Wadley, former editor of the Evening Standard and chair of Arts Council London, as a senior adviser to help expand London's volunteering scheme - Team London.

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BBC News, 2012. Tessa Jowell urges 10-year school sport plan [Online] (Updated 9th Aug 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1445337/Tessa-Jowell-urges-10-year-school-sport-plan [Accessed 30th Aug 2014]

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