Education Committee: Written Evidence Submitted by Will Parry, Department of Quantitative Social Science, Institute of Education

Select Committee
Physical activity
Young people
Education policy
Sport policy

Parry W


April 1, 2013


This short paper was written in response to a consultation by the government on the legacy of the 2012 London Olympic Games. It made the following main points:

  1. Policy has implicitly made traditional elite sport the model for school provision
  2. A focus on competition is detrimental to the majority of children’s enjoyment and maintenance of sport at and beyond school
  3. The population’s preferences could be used as a model for provision

The concluding paragraph is reproduced below:

For too long schools have been viewed as training grounds for the elite athletes of the future, essentially making use of a large captive population to filter out those who might be able to achieve gold medals for the country. This focus biases policy toward perverse approaches to getting children to be more active, focusing on competition and performance, as opposed to fun, variety and inclusivity. Being physically active is not the same as taking part in competitive sport. There are many ways to be active. The type of activity and whether it is participated in competitively have no bearing on whether one is reaching healthy levels of activity. Focusing on these things simply serves to reduce choice, opportunity and enjoyment.

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