Sport in Britain has developed dramatically over the past 30 years with countless medals and trophies being achieved at home and across the world in all major Leagues and competitions. From the Olympics to the Football Premier League, British sport has started to dominate and a clear example was at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 where Great Britain won an unexpected, yet spectacular, 47 medals, and 19 of them being gold (www.olympics.org.uk). This was the most medals Great Britain had ever won at an Olympic games. This shows great improvement in British sport over the years, especially with the government’s contribution. Hosting the Olympics in London will see British sport increase due to the quality of the new facilities giving more people a chance to participate and train. After the games are hosted in London the venues for the swimming, cycling, running etc, will be used for schools and colleges.
Physical education in Britain has been considered vital for young children. Most recently Britain has come under much criticism for its unhealthy school dinners and the inadequate amount of exercise the children receive. It is clear to see as written in the daily mail one in four children aged between 11 and 15 are now obese (www.dailymail.co.uk). Obesity in young children is becoming more apparent and there is a huge cause for concern with the effects being high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
According to the health secretary, by 2010 more than 12 million adults and 1 million children will be obese and worryingly 7 million pounds is spent on the health service each year to tackle this epidemic (www.dailymail.co.uk). These are frightening figures leading up to the Olympics. The Olympics should be used as a platform to get children out of their rooms and exercising, motivating them to lose weight and encourage more school sporting activities. According to ‘Health News Today’ there are fewer and fewer playing fields, compared to twenty years ago, which is leading to children becoming less active (www.medialnewstoday.com). Many children will be left feeling embarrassed and depressed about their weight, looking for a place they can exercise comfortably which means schools need to do more with extra curriculum activities and extra physical education hours.
British Sports Councils
British sport is influenced by the work of the two main sporting councils, Sport England and UK sport. UK Sport is responsible for managing and distributing public investment and is a statutory distributor of funds raised by the National Lottery (www.uksport.gov.uk), whilst Sport England invest National Lottery and Exchequer funding in organizations and projects that will grow and sustain participation in grassroots sport and create opportunities for people to excel at their chosen sport. Formerly known as the English Sports Council, they work in partnership with UK Sport, which has responsibility for elite success, and the Youth Sport Trust, which is focused on PE and school sport (www.Sportengland.org). Sport England have targets of 1million people taking part in sport and to have children and young people taking part in 5 or more hours of physical activity as week. They also both work closely with the (DCMS) Department for culture, media and sport. The (DCMS) are closely linked to the government to provide Government policy on the arts, sport, the National Lottery, tourism, libraries, museums and galleries, broadcasting, creative industries including film and the music industry, press freedom and regulation, licensing, gambling and the historic environment. They are also responsible for 2012 Olympic Games & Paralympics Games (www.culture.gov.uk). They work with schools and separate sports clubs and authorities to ensure everyone has a chance to compete and to ensure there are suitable faculties and equipment available. As well as this they also fund and create projects and initiatives for children at all levels. One projects they are running at the moment is free swimming to the over 60s and under 16’s through a new ?140 million cross government fund that will also rejuvenate and maintain pools across England. This shows they are working at all levels, not only at sporting success but also healthy living and growth of facilities (www.culture.gov.uk).
A lot of the funding comes from the government and National Lottery fund. The money gets distributed across the sports in Britain usually depending on how well they are perceived to be performing. For example, the cycling team was very successful in Beijing, therefore more money will be deposited in to the sport, but sports such as Judo and weight lifting will not receive as much. This decision by the government and the sporting bodies will inevitably affect the other sports. According to UK Sport (www.uksport.gov.uk) the funding available for the British athletes leading up to the London Olympics is ?256,588,649, with the main focus on Sailing, Swimming, Athletics, Rowing and Cycling. This is due to the success they brought in the previous Olympics. The highest funded sport is cycling with over ?26 million. The lowest funded are Weightlifting and Beach Volley ball. Understandably these sports would not be as successful without the government funding and national lottery.
Physical Education (PE) is a compulsory national curriculum subject. Sport is taught in every school and lessons include dance, games and gymnastics at Key Stage 1. During Key Stages 2 to 4, teachers must offer swimming and water safety, athletics and outdoor and adventurous activities (www.teachernet.gov.uk).
The PE Sport strategy for young people work closely with Sport England and UK sport to create new strategies for schools, parents, volunteers and coaches. Physical education leads to involvement in a healthy active life style; it allows a child to develop leadership skills which they can use in everyday life, increase positive behavior, and increased self-esteem and confidence leading to better attitude towards learning (The PE and Sport Strategy for Young People, 2009). To ensure this happens the government is providing 5-16 year olds 3-5 hours of physical activity a week in schools. This is important to prevent childhood obesity, which has been increasingly worrying over the past few years and also to prevent youth crime. According to Sport England (www.Sportengland.org) the local government spends 1billion on sport and leisure each year, this is a substantial amount of money aimed at youth and elite level athletes. A national strategy in 2006 set out by the Department for culture, media and sport (DCMS) and The Department for Education and skills (DfES) is to enhance the take up of sporting opportunities by 5-16 year olds. The aim is to increase the percentage of school children in England who spend a minimum of two hours each week on high quality PE and school sport within and beyond the curriculum to75% (Do you Have High Quality PE and Sport in Your School, 2005).
In 1989 in England and Wales, after a century of state-provided education, a government sponsored national curriculum for children aged 5-16 was implemented and only until 1992 physical education was then introduced as a statutorily curriculum subject (M. Donovan, G. Jones, K. Harman, 2006). Current Prime Minister at the time, John Major, commented on sport as ‘one of the best means of learning how to live along side others and make a contribution as a team, it improves health and opens doors to new friendships’. Sports councils later approached the idea of focusing on physical education in schools. They realised the impact schools have on children’s development through sport, and further set their goals in 1999 to increase participation, have more places to play sport and to win more medals (M. Donovan, G. Jones, K. Harman, 2006).
The government run DCSM, in 2004 showed great commitment in improving physical education and sport by setting out a strategy to increase access to school sports by increasing sporting hours to two hours a week, improve the quality and quantity of community sports clubs, focus on quality coaching in schools and the community (www.culture.gov.uk)
In the 1990’s Special Sports Colleges (SSC) were introduced to help improve physical education which was introduced by the conservative government. This was to provide an opportunity in specialised subjects such as art, technology, languages and sport. The colleges have been central in sports strategies by the governments for sports development. In 1999 the government then introduced a minimal two hours of curriculum physical education across all key stages with extra available in extra curriculum activities (M. Donovan, G. Jones, K. Harman, 2006).
To conclude, it is clear to see in which direction sport in Britain is heading. With continued determination and funding there will be only greater success by tackling many issues that arise such as child obesity and participation levels. The success is down to the development of children in schools and the funding and support from the government. Physical education in schools has been the pinnacle to athletes getting the correct coaching, gaining access to the correct funding, and able to compete at all levels.
As mentioned before the inclusion of sport colleges is important to nurture the talent coming through. It gives the children a chance to learn what they enjoy and try to improve their ability. Without these special colleges, children may go un-noticed or just give up. They need to be aware of the facilities and coaching available to them.
School is where children first come in contact with any type of sport (M. Donovan, G. Jones, K. Harman, 2006) therefore the government and sports councils need to focus on physical education in schools and ensure facilities, access, and cost are suitable to create a sporting Britain.