Martin Smith, head of PE atNottinghamHigh School
The media is full of comments and reports about the need for there to be a lasting legacy from the London Olympics so that the success can be repeated in the future. Ministers, including David Cameron, have hinted that schools are not prepared to give children the necessary competitive framework that is vital for preparing the next generation of Olympians. In my experience though this is far from the truth with competition thriving.
At Nottingham High School where I am head of PE, we have a very strong and competitive fixtures list in a wide variety of sports. Teams play midweek after school as well as at weekends and on some Saturdays we see as many as 18 rugby matches being played. It shows that there is no lack of willingness from the schools’ point of view.
Importantly, this isn’t restricted to schools in the private sector. As chairman of the Nottingham City Schools’ Athletics Association, I see first hand the number of pupils from schools across Nottingham who compete in City Athletics Championships. For instance in one year group competition this summer, all 17 city secondary schools fielded a team which was great.
I also see the hard work put in by School Sport Nottingham which organises a very strong competitive structure across many sports in the city. Government funding for the School Games programme has been instrumental in providing pathways into competitive sport for young people across the country. On a local level the recent Nottinghamshire School Games was a huge success with over 800 pupils participating in a multi sports competition. This is going to be repeated again for the next school year with both winter and summer games and even more young people competing. Hopefully initiatives like this will help to inspire more and more youngsters to get involved in competitive sport.
So will there be any legacy from 2012?
In my view, there will be an increase in the number of young people wanting to participate in sport and the schools are ready for the challenge as are local sports clubs who will see a surge in new members.
But legacy is also about facilities. The venues in London are fantastic but what about those more local to the majority of the population? Money is being invested locally but there is still more to be done. The only local major athletics facility at Harvey Hadden is in dire need of additional investment. Young people are inspired by modern and up to date facilities so if we are to retain their interest in sport we need to ensure that public facilities are attractive and fit for purpose.
I really do hope that schools rise to the challenge. I know that in my school, there will continue to be a number of key aims – encouraging participation and enjoyment, ensuring competition for all whatever their ability and developing a lifelong interest in sport amongst our pupils. Hopefully such an approach will help in creating a future generation of Olympic Champions.
Martin Smith, August 2012.