Olympics legacy? Compulsory sport be damned


Here we go, roll the bandwagon.  The lardy Boris says:

I would like frankly to see the regime I used to enjoy, a compulsory two hours of sport every day – that’s made me who I am.

You’ve said it mate.

Anathaema, anathema.  Beware the public school ethos.  Encourage, provide decent facilities yes – maybe a bare “compulsory” minimum but no more.  I was instinctively no good at games and no one encouraged me to find a niche, poor thing. I was happy to  cheer the guys on from the touchline and even  to organise support.  But compulsory games reek of  military drill and mediocrity, nothing to do with encouraging talent or even enjoyment.

Both my kids were good, played for their county to age 16 and went on jolly tours to the US and Australia. A million years ago my dad in a family without a spare 2d among them relied on church clubs for hockey, badminton, table tennis and Sunday school excursions  to learn to swim. And he ran at the Scouts jamboree  at the Imperial Exhibition of 1924 at the  even older Wembley  What ever happened to the voluntary sector?

As an alternative I did piano and violin, sang in a choir, debated,  did drama and the rest is history.  And a little light cross country running and coarse tennis,  great practice for playing swingball with my kids later in life. Ok,  so it wasn’t so prestigious as the muddied oafs and flannelled fools of Kipling; that in itself was character building.  I was let off the hook by a Classics master who said of sporting talent, “there’s no merit in it dear boy.” He spoke with the authority of having played rugby for Ireland.

Kids should be encouraged in the arts and music too..

And maybe  learn a mean hand of poker.


  • I know of one public school which encourages poker-playing among its senior pupils — all in the interests of teaching statistics and probabilities, I was assured.

    The compulsory cross-country run, as experienced at my Grammar School, would qualify as child-molesting. I recall a hard-freezing day, and a triangular course. One of the turning-points was the settlement pit of the sewage farm. It was iced over. A brave individual attempted a short-cut across — and failed. He was forever after nicknamed “Mud” (that was the politer, public version). He straggled back ten minutes later than anyone else, oily, stinking, black from midriff to toes. He was refused entry to the changing-rooms while the PE master connected up a hose (cold water, naturally) and swilled him down in the open playground.

    Anyway, we may be still policing the deserts of the world, but the Gatling is not just jammed but obsolete. So there’s another reason to move on from Henry Newbolt — though they had him in the GCSE anthology a few years back..

  • Mister_Joe

    Health Canada says that all kids need a minimum of 1 hours exercise every day. Looking around, obvious that many aren’t
    getting any

  • Brian Walker

    Wonderful stuff Malcolm. I left “play up, play up and play the game” for you.

  • Alias

    You could accuse Boris of playing to the “It never did me any harm” audience if that audience still existed. He’s good at showmanship and self-parody, but is he any good at politics?

  • aquifer

    A lack of exercise is killing people, expensively for the NHS and those who pay for it.

    Good to get people started with exercise at school, otherwise we risk more parents burying their children.

  • When I’m really, really bored, and Sluggerdom isn’t providing for the digestive juices, I take my stick wi’ its horse’s head handle and shove it in Wallace’s ear. Or the next best (and safer) menagerie, considering what happened to Albert Ramsbottom, which is ConHome.

    The exchange there hasn’t been about the “Olympic legacy” (and they don’t mean what amounts to a couple years’ more digging, shoving and heaving on the Hackney Marshes), so much as open house on union-bashing. It has been a therapeutic liberation of the inner authoritarian. Consider some examples:

    ¶ … the last thing we want is to go back to a time when school sport was crippled by militant union leaders embarking on a damaging and irresponsible work to rule. Ed Miliband and Stephen Twigg must condemn their union allies for standing in the way of children who want to take part in sport after school.

    ¶ The teacher unions are full of lazy teachers and they don’t want their well paid occupations prejudiced by having to think about sport for their pupils. Until standards generally are improved in State school teaching primarily by the right to dismiss indolent teachers without reviews, I’m afraid things won’t improve.

    ¶ … make it part of school contracts with the State to explicitly timetable 2 hours’ sport each day, and include sport supervision in teachers’ contracts.

    ¶ I believe doing things you don’t necessarily like doing is what life, and especially working life, is all about – and it is good for youngsters to realise that sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do.

    ¶ Old-fashioned rigour has lost its place in our soft-touch, over-feminized society.

    ¶ Boris says schools should provide two hours of PE daily

    This, of course, is one game anyone can play.

    So, while aquifer @ 5:32 am undoubtedly has a point, how far do we want to take it? Many school-students are constitutionally opposed to all that physical stuff. Stuffing PE into a particular timetable slot has, let’s admit it, the faintest whiff of Mrs Squeers’ expense of flower of brimstone and molasses, just to purify them.

    Essentially my sticking-point is that nothing in schools can be or should be just for fun anymore. The be-all and end-all is “it’s good for them”. That’s hardly the Corinthian spirit, nor Dr Arnold’s “muscular Christianity”, which ethos seems to be at the root of all this. For the record, when Arnold “invented” the Victorian public school, his recruitment of students was: “first, religious and moral principles; second, gentlemanly conduct, third, intellectual ability”. Just what is needed to rule an empire.

    Me? I’m off back to ConHome for another prod (and I feel a blog-post coming on).

  • Alias

    Does that two hours of PE mean two hour’s less of education or two extra hours in school? Either way, he’s not much good at politics.

  • Alias @ 5:22 pm:


    I wonder if there’s a clue here.