The Mango Blog
15/03/13 Red Nose Day fun at the Education Show 2013!
04/03/13 Ebony and Ivory
11/02/13 New curriculum plans 'cooking up' a storm
25/01/13 Once Upon a Time...
14/01/13 2013 - Time to break those resolutions
20/12/12 End of the world
12/12/12 Childhood memories with a festive twist
30/11/12 Resisting the Cult of Celebrity
21/11/12 Hola! Bonjour! Ciao! World Hello Day
16/11/12 Congratulations Bett Awards 2013 finalists from the team at Mango!
Page 1 of 10 Next »
The schools of champions
Sport and politics have often had a close relationship. Following the roaring Olympic success of Team GB last weekend, strong messages of national pride echoed in much of the mainstream media, prompting a much-needed boost to national confidence and esteem. Still riding on this euphoric wave, many are contemplating the legacy of Team GB's success and whether this will encourage more students and young people to engage in sport in a bid to become the future Jessica Ennis, Mo Farrah, Chris Hoy, Ben Ainslie-the list goes on.
As well as a natural aptitude for sport, strong support and access to sporting opportunities from school age generally distinguish a good sports person from a champion athlete. Cue recent debate on the disparity in sports education between independent schools and state-funded schools. David Cameron, himself Eton and Oxbridge-educated, raised concerns that Team GB was dominated by athletes who had been privately educated because state schools were failing to encourage sporting excellence.
Of course a statement like this will cause controversy and cause offence in some quarters. After all, should the achievements of Chirs Hoy, Ben Ainslie and Zara Phillips be any less praised because they had the advantage of private education?
That being said, the statistics paint a rather extreme picture. Despite only 7 per cent of the UK population being privately-educated, they accounted for 50 per cent of Team GB's medals in the Beijing Olympics 2008 with one third of this year's team having attended public school. Currently 32 per cent of GB medals are from public school-educated athletes. Of course some sports are more likely to be dominated by those privately-educated. For example, all except one member of the equestrian team which picked up the silver medal for eventing had attended an independent school.
With these kind of statistics, it is easy to see why there is pressure on state schools to up their game, so to speak and make sure that potential Olympians are not slipping through the net.
The difference in the way sport is taught in state school compared with private school is staggering. In addition to the smaller class sizes which allow more one and one interaction with teachers and pupils, private schools boast some of the best sporting facilities including acres of playing fields, indoor swimming pools and tennis courts. Eton College benefits from a 9-hole golf course, a 25m indoor swimming pool and use of an athletic centre, funded by the £3.5m lottery grant. With the odd exception, state schools just can't compete with these resources.
Much has been made about the lower expectations within state schools towards sports achievement. Some commentators have asserted that sport is used as a compulsary element of the curriculum, designed to encourage self-esteem and tackle childhood obesity rather than a tool to promote excellence and create future Olympians.
As someone who was educated in a state school, I can draw on my own experiences when it comes to the difference in state and private school sports education. My primary school education consisted of one hour a week of PE taught by non-specialist teachers including one awkward memory of my headmaster demonstrating a forward roll in his suit. Although I was never going to be a sporting hero, I was luckier than some to have parents who were able to afford after school activities such as swimming and dancing. A university friend of mine who attended a £15,000 per year school had a very different sporting experience which included participating in Lacrosse tournaments across Europe and the USA and access to hours of after-school sports activity delivered by the school.
Not everyone in private or state school is destined to turn sport into a medal-winning profession but what a shame if their failure is due to lack of opportunity as oppose to a lack of sporting ability.