Plea for Rational Policy Making

Posted: Fri, 10 Aug 2012 08:03

For those who have been going on about Sport Policy for years and been dismissed as rather strange we finally have our moment to make an impact. I have bored everybody for years talking about 'Legacy'.

The gaze of the nation is momentarily on the massive success of @TeamGB in the Olympics and all those Gold medals and amazingly gutsy performances of those who didn't quite 'medal'.

Suddenly there is so much to say in the short span of time there will be in the media scrum to be THE newspaper campaigning for sport. The problem as usual is the same reason we decided to set up the Sports Think Tank. The media campaigns will be based on anecdotal out of date memories of school sport, their local clubs and a lack of genuine understanding of what it takes to be a Gold medal athlete at an Olympics.

We have already seen this happening in a couple of the papers. To be fair there are some noteable exception including a Guardian Editorial at the weekend.

So where do we start:

Let me say this is just a quick plea for some time and space for these things to de decided properly. This is NOT my manifesto. There is so much more to say. But in very simple terms these are the areas we need to consider.

We have to get school sport right. But already the debate has been hijacked by some who make oversimplified claims that it's all about the lack of competition in schools. Mostly nonsense - but also there isn't a great deal of evidence to support early competition as an answer to any of the problems identified. Indeed there is contrary evidence that too much competition too early is counter productive. Surely our policy should be about getting every child involved in sport and PE to enjoy it as a lifelong ambition. It should be fun and about teaching physical literacy. By year 6 I want every child doing their 1 hour a day of physical activity and to be physically 'literate' to enjoy sport and recreation for the rest of their lives. Like millions we will never be Olympians. Our plight is to play community sport for decades!

The debate about targets and teachers being too lazy to teach sport is a sideshow. We were making progress on the 2 hour offer. But still there were not enough specialist teachers/coaches in Primary schools. That needs to be rectified. But it comes at a cost (16,500 primary schools in England). It does come down to £ funding. Unfortunately the cuts to SSPs has created a postcode lottery again - depending on the desire to drive sport at school level.

Our next step should be to improve community sport provision - schools, clubs, local authorities, CSPs to name a few all linked together with Health delivering an active nation of whom many will join sport and recreation clubs - and many who won't. Get the base of the pyramid wider and get people to stay longer through enjoyment - it isn't all about talent ID. But good talent ID will lead to the next level...

We are doing lots of good work at the Sport & Recreation Alliance to make it easier for sports clubs to thrive and survive. The new Sport England strategy is going to be around for the next 2013-17 period so we need to work with it. Let's hope the UK Sport/ Sport England merger is not too big of a distraction.

The elite level looks after itself with the right level of funding and a system to deliver performance. The only thing to get wrong here is to slash the funding and break up the expertise in UKSport. Who could argue with our medal count at London 2012. It shows this is about right (although over at the Think tank we will argue about getting a wider balance for Rio 2016... just medals or supporting more elite athletes?)

But overall the task is to build some consensus, learn from the evidence and prevent individuals or single organisations claiming they have the answers. They do not. Even at the Sports Think Tank we don't have all the answers - what we want is co-operation and consensus to build evidence based policy. We have one chance with the momentum created by the Olympics, but we fear it being overtaken by the clamour for headlines. The test will be who will still be around in 6 months doing the hard work to make this all happen in detail when the spotlight has moved.

Finally for now we have to simplify the sport landscape. There are way too many people and organisations who claim to speak on behalf of sport. This may be controversial but there are too many former sports stars trying to run sport. From a governance point of view I have learned former sports starts don't always make good managers and policy makers. We will need a cull of sport bodies where they duplicate and overlap. That funding needs to be diverted to the front line and clubs. The same is true of the involvement of politicians. I should know. Too much is based on their anecdotal experience. A cabinet of Public School Millionaires is not best placed to decide on school sport policy!

As I have said this is not a full manifesto - just the start of a conversation.

Tags: Sport, 2012 Legacy, Policy


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