SCHOOL sports could be facing a “perfect storm” which threatens the Olympic ambition to leave a lasting legacy, an MP has claimed.
Former Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe accused Ministers of undoing work carried out by Labour to boost school sports in a “brutal and senseless” fashion.
Criticising cuts to school sports funding, the Bradford South MP also warned that planning and education reforms could pose fresh threats to the health of a generation of youngsters.
“Twelve months on, the threat to the future of school sport has not dissipated,” he told MPs. “In fact, the cuts announced last year will devastate the national sport structure that was the envy of the world, and new threats have emerged within the past 12 months that have the potential to create a perfect storm for school sports.”
Mr Sutcliffe led a debate in Westminster on the issue yesterday, particularly criticising cuts to funding of School Sports Partnerships. He questioned whether the Government’s controversial planning reforms would lead to more playing fields being sold off and raised fears that free schools being promoted by Ministers could be able to cut the amount of sport pupils participate in.
“London 2012 has given us an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to leave a lasting sporting legacy, not of stadiums and facilities, important though they are, but of a new generation of young people for whom sport and physical activity are an integral part of their lives,” said Mr Sutcliffe.
“The Government should not have decided to drop the commitment to involving two million more people in sport and physical activity. However, it is not too late.
“The situation is not irretrievable, but the threats to school sport are so great and serious that Ministers must ask themselves how they intend to meet the commitments to ensure an Olympic legacy if they maintain their current course.”
Education Minister Tim Loughton rejected some of the accusations as “red herrings” and said Labour had spent £2.4billion but still failed to convince many youngsters that sport was a good thing.
He said: “The Government are absolutely committed to promoting competitive school sport and embedding it within schools, rather than just assuming that because there is additional money or there are additional co-ordinators, it will automatically happen. Clearly it has not been embedded. That is a problem that we now have to pick up.
“We hope that the school games will be a flagship way of ensuring that more people want to become involved in sport not just at school but outside the school gates, and that they will want to carry it on into adulthood as well. That is the most important thing that we need to achieve.”