The BBC reports today that when it comes to schools and young people, the Olympic legacy is “on life support”.
It notes that schools are struggling to come up with a range of sports and activities, and staff may lack the knowledge, experience and skills to be able to cater for a wide range of sports. Further complications arise when timetabling pressures put pressure on schools to fit sports into a school day crowded by the requirements of other subjects, and the conflict of the current government’s proposals to end the “prize for all” culture verses trying to create a balance where less sporty youngsters are not put off trying to take part in games.
Last year, just before the Olympics, I was invited to a school in Swindon who were holding an “Olympics Week.” They wanted their pupils to experience as many different sports as possible, so asked local sporting clubs to come in and offer taster sessions to their classes. On the same day that I was there to teach taekwondo was archery, two sports that would normally be absent from the curriculum but undoubtedly of interest to some pupils who may not have had the opportunity to take part.
I believe that building these connections between sports clubs and schools could be the real Olympic Legacy. This can be done in two ways: Getting PE pupils to learn one sports a term, with different sports on offer to choose from each term. The sports on offer should utilise PE staff’s expertise first and foremost, then getting sports coaches from local clubs to fill in the gaps. The second option would involve running lunchtime and after school clubs. Most sports clubs, I’d argue, would relish the opportunity to come in and run a class a week at a local school, to use their expertise and inspire a new generation.
Only by exposure to a wide range of sports can youngsters – and adults – find where their niche and interests lie. For some, individual events such as archery or athletics is better. For others, Others need a more adrenaline-packed activity, so judo or taekwondo might be more for them. For others still, activities that can be done in groups but working alone, such as cycling, is where their interest lies.
PE teachers, no matter how varied the team and department is, cannot be expected to be experts in every sport. If we want a consistent approach to physical education in our schools, that truly stimulates and inspires the varying needs of 100+ pupils, acquiring the expertise and resources available in the local community where appropriate is the best solution to getting young people into a sport or activity they can be passionate about.
This could truly be an Olympic Legacy to be proud of.