Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, continues to be the most audible voice criticizing the Coalition government — in direct opposition to Prime Minister David Cameron — in calling for compulsory sport participation in English schools. In response to the Board of Education dropping the requirement for two hours of sport every week at all state schools, Johnson said that all students should participate in physical activity, and two hours a week wasn’t sufficient. Two hours of every school day should be dedicated to sport, he insisted.
Compulsory physical education would allow England to preserve the sporting legacy of the 2012 London Olympics, Johnson pointed out at a press conference about the plans for the Olympic site in Stratford. He seemed unaware that the government announced its change in physical education policy in the closing days of the Olympics, especially since he believed that Coalition members shared his passionate belief in the importance of sports.
“I hope they will build on the amazing spirit of these Games to encourage participation in schools in London and across the country … 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.
Johnson attended the elite public school Eton, as did Cameron.
According to Johnson, children around the country would greatly benefit from sports, and expanded opportunities to participate would contribute much to student happiness and future success. Johnson’s enthusiasm is at odds with the views of the Prime Minister, who stood behind the head of the Education Department Michael Gove’s decision to scrap the two-hour-a-week sport requirement last week. Cameron called the requirement “a box-ticking exercise” and said that schools shouldn’t be the ones to carry the burden of making sure kids had an opportunity to be active. Instead, the culture of the country needed to change to allow students more chances for physical activity. One of Cameron’s suggestions to bring about this change is to have teachers volunteer to coach competitive sports teams during their off time.
Johnson, on the other hand, proposed an alternative plan of utilizing the legion of Olympic volunteers who have already gone through a criminal background check as coaches and phys-ed trainers both inside and outside of school hours.
Tessa Jowell, the shadow Olympics minister, called for cross-party consensus on the Olympic sporting legacy. She also called for the reintroduction of PE taught by properly trained teachers in primary schools, funding to promote partnerships between schools and investment in school sports facilities.