Lasting Legacy?

Robertson says children must be introduced to sport at an early stage

Last Updated: 02/10/12 12:45pm

Can Britain build on a successful Olympic Games?

Sports Minister Hugh Robertson says he is determined to create a lasting legacy from the London Olympics and ensure that people are playing sport both in and out of school.

"If you can get people earlier and ingrain those habits between seven and 11, you have got a much better chance of them carrying on playing sport."

Hugh Robertson

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The British public watched in awe this summer as the likes of Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah and Bradley Wiggins struck gold at the 2012 Games and Robertson says that excitement has already led to increased participation figures.

However, the Conservative MP told Special Report it is vital that sport captures the imagination of people at a young age and is hopeful that the government's 10-point Olympic Legacy plan, which will include £1billion being invested in youth sport strategy, will do just that.

"We have got an extra 1.3million people playing sport that weren't playing sport in 2005," said Robertson.

"That figure was taken before the Olympic Games but if you look at the figures coming now from the sports governing bodies there is huge interest stoked up.

"I spoke to someone from England Hockey and was told that in one of the clubs around Southampton there were 700 children there on the weekend immediately after the Games.

"Keeping that going is going to be a real challenge in the years ahead, but there is a 10-point legacy plan that schools are right at the centre of and it is important that we capitalise on that and what has happened this summer and do genuinely inspire a generation.

"School sport is done by the by the Department of Education, but we have tried to move into that territory and address the age-old problem of post-school drop-out.

"That is what our new youth-sport strategy is about, creating 5,000 clubs in schools to get children out of schools and into community clubs.

"If you were doing a critique of school-sport policy over the years in this country, and many others, people have tried to capture people at secondary school.

"But all the academic evidence shows that if you can get people earlier and ingrain those habits between seven and 11, you have got a much better chance of them carrying on not just through secondary school but beyond as it is part of their daily lives."


However, Eartha Pond, the UK Sports Teacher of the Year, and Alison Oliver of the Youth Sports Trust believe there is plenty of work still do be done to ensure that children are receiving the best possible physical education in primary schools.

"Primary school teachers are happy enough to teach literacy and numeracy in a classroom but I don't think they are confident in delivering PE and sports to a high level," said Pond.

"It is very important that when they come to secondary school that they have the confidence and the tools to perform to expectations, and I don't think they have been given that or the experience to see if things are working or need to be changed."

Oliver added: "We don't have dedicated PE professionals and people who give time before and after school, but across a cluster of schools there are primary specialists and that practice spread more widely could do a lot to address the challenge.

"With 18,000 primary schools we are not likely to get a specialist in everyone but we need to work out how do we get a specialist to work across schools to build confidence and competence in teaching."

British Olympic stars such as Alex Danson, who claimed a bronze medal in London as part of her nation's women's hockey team, have visited schools post-Games to detail how they managed to achieve their goals.

And Oliver thinks hearing from big-name success stories can really motivate children to take up sport.

"These athletes give great inspiration, not just because they hold up the medal and talk about their achievements but also because they talk about the journey they have been on," she said.

"There are so many people that can relate to an athlete when they explain that fame hasn't just appeared upon them and it comes through hard work and highs and lows. These are stories young people connect with."