David Cameron waded in to the school sport debate with an ill-thought out attack once again today, following his earlier criticism of teachers by claiming state school pupils were spending their mandatory two-hour-a-week sport allocation performing “Indian dance”.
The prime minister, responding to widespread criticism of his abolition of the two-hour target – from double Olympic champion Dame Kelly Holmes to London Mayor Boris Johnson – told this morning’s Daybreak:
“The trouble we have had with targets up to now, which was two hours a week, is that a lot of schools were meeting that by doing things like Indian dance or whatever, that you and I probably wouldn’t think of as sport, so there’s a danger of thinking all you need is money and a target.
“If that was the solution we would have solved the problem by now… As well as the facilities and the money, what we really need is a change in culture in our schools and in society that says sport is good, competitive sport is good, schools games are good.”
The Department for Education also hit out at compulsory targets, describing Labour’s targets as “unenforceable”, taking up “far too much of teachers’ time”, while Boris Johnson has said he has “no doubt” two hours’ sport every day would be “wonderful” for schoolchildren, and would “like to see two hours a day”.
The success of the two hour target is clear; the PE and Sport Survey 2009/10 (pdf) revealed:
• Pupils across Years 1-13 spent an average of 117 minutes taking part in PE in a typical week;
• In each year to 2009/10, there has been an increase in the average number of minutes pupils take part in PE each week across Years 1-11 - in 2004/05 the average number of minutes for Years 1-11 was 107, compared to 123 in 2009/10;
• Across Years 1-13, 79% of pupils participated in 120 minutes or more per week of curriculum PE in 2009/10 – up from 77% in 2008/09;
• Across Years 1 – 11, there has been a near doubling of the proportion of pupils participating in at least 120 minutes of curriculum PE, from 2003/04 to 2009/10 – up from 44% to 84%;
• Every year, there have been increases in all year groups in terms of the proportion of pupils participating in at least 120 minutes of curriculum PE, most significantly in Years 1-6; and
• In 2009-10, 78% of girls and 80% of boys in Years 1-13 took part in at least 120 minutes of curriculum PE.
Figure 12 illustrates the increases across all years in the proportion of pupils participating in at least two hours’ curriculum PE a week in the years to 2009/10:
Furthermore, it is not just a case of ‘reach the target and stop’, a criticism that may be levelled at other government targets – as Figure 1 shows, there have been increases across all years in the proportion of pupils participating in at least three hours’ a week high quality PE and out of hours school sport, peaking at 70% for Year 6:
And on the subject of “dance”, though true that it is second only to football in provision across all schools (and third to cricket in club links), it is only one option of many available – for David Cameron to say two hours a week of sport is devoted to “Indian dance” in state schools, imply it is widespread and cite this as a reason for axing the two-hour target once more shows how adrift from reality on school sport this most out-of-touch prime minister is.