This is an edited version of a letter I was asked to write for the Evening Standard
Dear Mr Cameron,
I doubt any of us would disagree that the London Olympics has been an awe-inspiring spectacle and a celebration of our capital city, but children are not elite athletes and the recent proposals by your government regarding school sport are not evidence based.
Research in this area shows that making children train and compete in formalised sporting contests frequently reduces enjoyment and can alienate many. Those without the natural talent, the late maturing, or simply those who were born later in the school year lose out to their peers and can accumulate self-perceptions of inability, potentially putting them off sport for life.
Today, only around 35% of the adult population is sufficiently active for health. If we want to encourage more people to engage in healthy levels of exercise in the future we need to do all we can to provide our children with positive, enjoyable experiences of sport and exercise, regardless of ability.
School policy should not service the nation’s elite sports goals. School sport and exercise should focus on the recreational majority, providing choice, variety and optional competition during secondary school.
ESRC funded PhD candidate researching exercise behaviour
Institute of Education, University of London