Play up, play the game


          In the post Olympic euphoria about team games and individual sporting achievements we have become fixated by school playing fields.

          I am all in favour of schools having good playing fields. They need space to allow team games like football, cricket, netball and hockey. They need space to permit summer track and field events. A school set in fields offers a more pleasing environment in many ways, though this may not be possible in city schools where land is at a premium.

           Nor do I favour selling off good playing fields to make money from housing development where the school is then left with inadequate facilities or a cramped environment. I went to a state primary which had a modest field behind the school which permitted some team games and a green lung at play time. I appreciated that at the time.  My secondary school did have playing fields, though I remember the school often preferred to make us run a cross country for exercise which took us way beyond the grounds of the school. Local lanes became improvised playing fields. Not all sporting facilities have to be on school land.

             What is curious about the latest debate is the assumption that only the Secretary of State can be trusted to make the decision to prevent the sale of playing fields, and the implication that when he allows local people to sell a playing field this is always a wrong decision.

              I think Secretaries of State should be careful before using powers to block local people, Governors of schools, Headteachers and Council Committees, from doing what they think is in the best interest of their schools. The Secretary of State is a busy individual, and may not be able to go and visit and see for himself the circumstances on the ground. He rarely gets to talk the various interested parties.

               There may be good reasons why a playing field should be sold. If a school is closing, and future local students are going to other local  schools, there should be no objection to the sale of the playing fields if those other schools already have good provision. There should be no objection if a playing field is being sold because it has high development value, and the school concerned is picking up another local field to replace it. There should be less objection if the school selling still retains substantial land holdinsg to provide the space needed for all reasonable games use. There might be no need to object if a school is selling fields because the local authority is providing better sports facilities nearby which the school can use. Joint use facilities have a lot to recommend them, as school facilities often get closed throughout the school holidays, limiting their utility. More use of the available facilities throughout the year would be welcome.

   If we get ourselves into a world where no playing field can ever be sold we run the risk of setting educational  property in aspic and make improvement and development more difficult. If sports facilities are ony for the use of one particular school in term time we do not get full value out of them.  I have no idea of the wisdom of the various cases where Mr Gove has allowed a playing field to be sold. I assume in each case the leaders of the school and local community thought it a good idea, which is a good start. There may well have been sensible reasons in each  case. Maybe Mr Gove’s critics should wait and see more of the detail of the decisions. Or maybe they should set out some live examples, if they think they have a case where they think  he has got it wrong.

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  1. Martin Cole
    Posted August 19, 2012 at 5:54 am | Permalink

    Use Google Earth, check out the shortage of space all across the country, particularly in already congested urban areas.

    It is decades long, nearly criminal, immigration policies of recent governments and surely criminal existing unrestricted EU immigration that makes nearly all government policies and politicians’ shibboleths, such as the present furore over playing fields, appear absolutely absurd to the long suffering electorate.

  2. Peter Bamford
    Posted August 19, 2012 at 6:41 am | Permalink

    I did a spot check on a case near me in Putney. Land was being sold to fund urgent school repairs that had been scheduled into the Building Schools programme but cancelled by the government. In this instance it seems to me that where the decision is made is not really the issue.

  3. Mike Stallard
    Posted August 19, 2012 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    The DfE is getting right above itself. It is not fair to blame Mr Gove – he lost control as soon as he got into office. Decisions and policy are made by people like Mrs Gupta and Mr Jacobs (ever heard of them?) or a committee of faceless individuals who have never been near a classroom or dealt with real adolescent puberty fuelled teenagers.
    Leave the Governors and the heads who know what they are up to to run the schools and allow them to fail.

  4. lifelogic
    Posted August 19, 2012 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    We need to use all assets playing fields, sport facilities, swimming pools, school building, halls, labs all facilities – as much as possible and for as many hours as possible to obtain maximum value from them all and thus reduce the net costs of providing them. They do not need, always, to be attached to the schools as you say. A coach/bus used intensively by all the schools for transport, to and from, might well be a better investment in very many cases.

    Still this is politics (the politics of envy in many cases) not just common sense.

    • lifelogic
      Posted August 19, 2012 at 8:12 am | Permalink

      Assets (as well as the pupils) need to sweat to pay their way and give a good return for their capital costs. Build on the fields and put the sport facilities on top of the buildings perhaps where land is that valuable.

      • Bazman
        Posted August 19, 2012 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

        Like they do at Eton?

        • Mark
          Posted August 19, 2012 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

          I hear they use the chapel buttresses for a handball game…

          And they use a wall for another:

        • lifelogic
          Posted August 19, 2012 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

          The evil politics of envy as I said. Mind you I am no great fan of Eton, after all it (and PPE at Oxford) produced the socialist, pro EU, disaster that is Cameron.

          • Bazman
            Posted August 20, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

            Maybe the world corrupt governments who are toppled are all victims of the politics of envy? Maybe their populations should just have nothing and be happy with it? Seems to be a lot of socialism going on with the middle class and upper class social security systems does there not? The idea that a rich elite detached from the lower stratas of society has no effect and should be welcomed is another of your silly fantasies. Scum like me in a hotel like this. Rab C Nesbitt.

    • lifelogic
      Posted August 19, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

      I now read in the Sunday Times that Cameron is to revitalise the mad Severn Barrage scheme. More cash down the drain (or river) it seems, even the mad, green, high priest Huhne did not fall for this one. Could someone not buy him a calculator and explain the numbers to him slowly.

      Needless to say, it would involve huge and pointless tax payer subsidy and just as all the bogus science behind the Carbon religion exaggeration has clearly fallen apart.

      • outsider
        Posted August 19, 2012 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

        As well as being an environmental disaster.

      • Bazman
        Posted August 19, 2012 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

        Like nuclear power?

        • lifelogic
          Posted August 19, 2012 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

          Nuclear would clearly be far more cost effective, better environmentally and far, far cheaper. Coal and methane might be better still.

        • outsider
          Posted August 19, 2012 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

          Yes thanks, I do like nuclear power. Good for the environment too, particularly my local power station. Pity it is now owned and run by the French government though.

          • Bazman
            Posted August 20, 2012 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

            Not good for Japan’s environment or particularly cheap in the long run. They listened as to how safe their power station were and this is how safe they were. The answer from you no doubt being more apologist nonsense. I doubt the French government will be paying for any clean up here even though they own it. Any chance of paying for the decommissioning? No chance.

      • APL
        Posted August 19, 2012 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

        lifelogic: “it would involve huge and pointless tax payer subsidy ”

        Apropos of nothing, I wonder if Tim Yeo will be helping the project, he does seem to have a particular interest in Green ishoos. Simply baffles me why that might be!

      • Mark
        Posted August 19, 2012 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

        I find it frightening how many people now understand that windmills are uneconomic but think that tidal/wave power is economic, despite the fact that marine power attracts a 500% subsidy via ROCs, as against only 100% for onshore wind and 200% for offshore wind.

        I’m sure Cameron must have stopped studying economics after Honour Mods: perhaps he didn’t score too highly in the paper either. All philosophy and politics.

        • APL
          Posted August 20, 2012 at 7:29 am | Permalink

          Mark: “I find it frightening how many people now understand that windmills are uneconomic ..”

          Most people involved with wind farms are not farming the wind, it is the government subsidy they are cultivating.

          • alan jutson
            Posted August 20, 2012 at 5:42 pm | Permalink


            Same story with solar panels.

            You only have to look how they are advertised !

          • lifelogic
            Posted August 20, 2012 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

            Indeed PV is another pointless con.

    • lifelogic
      Posted August 19, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

      Rod Liddle in the Sunday Times informs me that the Guardian is the most ordered newspaper at the BBC with nearly 60,000 copies ordered – what a surprise (is that not almost the full, paid for, circulation of the paper?).

      It seems the paper only exists, thanks to BBC (and other Government) job adverts and these BBC orders and perhaps a few from the dimmer university/college students.

      • Bazman
        Posted August 19, 2012 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

        The Telegraph only exists for your fantasies then. No housing benefit. Landlords income? Up or down? Specific answer. Yes or no? You have gone silent on on many answers, as have many fantasists. I am getting tired of middle aged middle class fools. One reply wonders. You know who you are…Get some…Fatty..

        • APL
          Posted August 19, 2012 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

          Bazman: “Telegraph, ”

          The circulation graph of the Telegraph is in only slightly less steep decline than that of the Guardian. The Telegraph has been ruined by its current owners, it is little more than a platform for promoting the Telegraph groups holiday cruise business.

          Bazman: “.. Specific answer .. ”

          Then ask a coherent question.

          • APL
            Posted August 20, 2012 at 9:31 am | Permalink

            and as if by magic!


            The Daily Telegraph : 581,249 ; -8.34
            The Guardian : 209,354 ; -15.85

            Note: The Guardian can only manage 209 thousand with the assistance of the BBC, Local Labour authorities, Government sponsored Charities (that is not Charities) buying their copy too.

        • lifelogic
          Posted August 19, 2012 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

          I would agree with reductions in housing benefit but also that social housing should charge the market rents.

      • APL
        Posted August 19, 2012 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

        lifelogic: “It seems the paper only exists, thanks to BBC (and other Government) job adverts and these BBC orders and ..”

        Yep, before the Scott trust was wound up, the Guardian must have been at the centre of the biggest ‘tax efficient‘ (success? ed) for, well a century.

        Odd, how the Tories didn’t seem to notice it all going on under their noses.

  5. alan jutson
    Posted August 19, 2012 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    When I was at Secondary school (more than 50 years ago) in West London, our School did not have any grassed areas at all.

    Our PE was organised in such a manner as we had double periods for sport (whole morning or afternoon) and we were coached/bused to playing fields some 4-5 miles away which had all of the facilities.

    When these dedicated facilities were being used, at other times we used the local Parks. We changed at School, ran there, completed our sports, and then ran back, no matter what the weather.

    Not until my 4th year did our school even have a purpose built gym, we used the school hall, with the usual benches and rope climbing equipment.

    It did not stop our School from winning many Cups, interschool sports competitions, cricket and football matches, because we were allowed to play ball games in the playground during breaks with a tennis ball.
    A number of us had trials and played for the District team.

    Clearly far better to have the facilities to hand, but even better to have enthusiasm in the first place.

    When I look around schools now and see all of the facilities available, I simply cannot understand why so many kids fail.

    But then I have seen some of the more modern ways of teaching, and the way teachers go about their business, and that I am afraid is often the clue.

    The Heamaster of any school is the key and sets the tone, our head ruled with a rod of iron, fully accepted that some pupils were more talented than others, but would accept nothing more than full effort.

    • alan jutson
      Posted August 19, 2012 at 6:58 am | Permalink


      Would accept nothing less than full effort.

      • Rebecca Hanson
        Posted August 19, 2012 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

        Alan can I invite you to come and join me to discuss the failings kids these days at the youth athletics league auxiliary finals in Manchester on Saturday 1st September?

        Anyone else who’d like to come is warmly invited to find my and say hi and tell me whatever they want to tell me about life and society. 🙂

        • alan jutson
          Posted August 19, 2012 at 10:51 pm | Permalink


          Sorry, booked for that day, and Manchester too far away for a chat.

          Best of luck

          • Rebecca Hanson
            Posted August 21, 2012 at 8:08 am | Permalink

            Sorry about that Alan, some other time maybe?

            Anyone who wants to come and meet or quiz me in person is very welcome.

  6. Rebecca Hanson
    Posted August 19, 2012 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    Friday’s news indicated that the reasons some fields are being sold is because school buildings are in such a serious state of disrepair that they have to be rebuilt and selling land is the only option they have to do that because the SoS has cancelled the funding they were promised.

    Where is local democracy if things are consulted planned and agreed, then the SoS simply prevents them happening without consultation, gets done in the courts for not consulting and then runs sham consultations which aren’t real to ‘tick the box of having consulted’. This is of course off the back of decades of schools being messed around by central government spending all our money on their own pet projects and ignoring what actually needs to be done.

    Dose nobody have any idea what it’s like when your school is falling down and is repeatedly closed so that students miss their education – or are in random office block. This is a short cut to getting yourself on to Gove big list of schools to go into special measures as it will obviously affect results and results are all that matters……

    • Rebecca Hanson
      Posted August 19, 2012 at 10:10 am | Permalink

      While I’ve got a moment I’ll just try and spell the issue out in detail.

      Many of England’s state schools were built from concrete in the 1950s and 1960s. These have a design life which they have now reached or are about to reach. They are therefore being closely monitored. In some cases there is no evidence of structural failure and the buildings should be able to function for a while yet provided they are monitored. However in other cases there are very serious issues and buildings need to be urgently replaced.

      This was the case at a school near me. Everyone knew it needed a rebuild. But a rebuild needs central funding so it couldn’t get one under labour. The only way you could get a rebuild under labour was for your school to become a Blair Academy. But this school did not have the right catchment. So it was just left to rot and fall down. In the end a way was found that by merging the school with an other school which did have the right catchment it was possibly to become an academy and therefore get a rebuild. The school didn’t need or want to become an academy – it caused vast upheaval issues. The vast expense of the state of the art academy building wasn’t needed – a simple rebuild would have been fine. The merger was clearly a contrived merger which didn’t suit anything except the need for the rebuild and also caused huge problems. But the need for the rebuild was real and couldn’t be overcome in any other way. When all that was agreed the buildings hadn’t yet failed – but everyone knew they were going to.

      Now schools are having to sell their playing field to fund rebuilds because Gove is spending all our money on his pet free schools. What are they supposed to do? Gove is in charge of our money and he doesn’t give a stuff about the vast majority of schools. He’s just letting them rot and spending the money they need on the things which matter to him.

      The issue of failing buildings is getting much worse as more of those concrete structures which fail so catastrophically and suddenly pass their design lives. It’s not like brick buildings where you can patch them up. They fail completely.

      In Scotland these failing structures have now virtually all been replaced through a long term rolling program which has spent 10 years consulting on the most efficient way to integrate all children’s services in each area before building, with the support team moving from place to place and taking their learnings from each area to the next.

      • Iain Gill
        Posted August 19, 2012 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

        great teachers can do better in a tent than poor quality teachers in perfect buildings.

        • Rebecca Hanson
          Posted August 19, 2012 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

          My mum used to teach afternoon and night class GCSE human biology with just a chid’s science kit and a meths bunsen Iain and she got great results so I understand where you’re coming from.

          But it’s a totally different issue when a secondary school building fail because suddenly chidren are all over the place – in different buildings miles from each other. So you can’t get the right teachers to the right kids and you end up with classes not being taught or being taught by non-specialists……….. Can you try to picture the logistics and issues involved please?

        • lifelogic
          Posted August 19, 2012 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

          Indeed building have little to do with it.

        • Credible
          Posted August 19, 2012 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

          That’s alright then. We’ll just let all the schools fall to bits because it won’t make any difference.

          • lifelogic
            Posted August 20, 2012 at 6:42 am | Permalink

            Under Cameron’s EU socialist they will need to know how to make do and mend – no harm in them starting early at school with the buildings.

          • Rebecca Hanson
            Posted August 20, 2012 at 7:39 am | Permalink

            Lifelogic yes there is a very serious likely harm if the building is a prestressed concrete structure. These building fail in a catestrophic way.

          • Rebecca Hanson
            Posted August 20, 2012 at 8:16 am | Permalink


          • APL
            Posted August 20, 2012 at 9:38 am | Permalink

            Credible: “That’s alright then. We’ll just let all the schools fall to bits because it won’t make any difference.”

            There is no reason a school should fall to bits except for the negligence and malfeasance of the authorities running the maintenance program.

            Maintenance of a building is a known quantity. Can easily be budgeted for but often isn’t, this then used as an excuse to build another school as the old one has fallen into disrepair.

          • APL
            Posted August 20, 2012 at 9:45 am | Permalink

            Rebecca Hanson: “These building fail in a catestrophic way.”

            Would you kindly cite an example of such a failure in the United Kingdom in say, the last sixty years?

          • Rebecca Hanson
            Posted August 20, 2012 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

            The relevant buildings went up in the 50s and 60s and had a robust design life of about 50 years – extendable with close checking in most cases. Because we have systems of close checks we know when building are going to go and monitor them closely. So when the start to show signs of serious problems they are emptied and people are only allowed in with huge amounts of sensors in place and remote monitoring.

            Fortunately this building has now been demolished:
            due to the local council finding a ludicrous way of categorising it as being one of Blairs academies. That route is the only route by which any rebuilds have taken place in Cumbria and in most other parts of the country as BSF (Building Schools for the Future) was cancelled just as it was getting going. Hence most schools which didn’t have the catchments to become Blarite academies have had no opportunities of rebuilds.

            The money for rebuilds is under the control of central government. But instead of being used for a program such as the one in Scotland it has been squandered by totally incompetent governments who can then spin the press to lay the blame at the doors of local councillors. But they never had the money for rebuilds and this was always known.

            Now, who would run a press campaign to blame “town hall bureaucrats, trade union leaders, Labour’s left-wing” for their own decision to squander all the money which should have been spent on rebuilds on shutting down all the normal functioning of the DFE and employing hundreds of people to force through their own pet projects instead?


        • alan jutson
          Posted August 19, 2012 at 11:05 pm | Permalink



          Was at a meeting last year, when I got into discussion with an Indian National about 25 years of age, who spoke about education where he grew up.

          He was taught in a barn, with no doors, a dust floor, a simple row of desks and basic writing equipment, for which his parents paid £7.00 per month, it was the local community school run by a charity.

          All of the students who went to that school, went on to University, and became professional people as indeed did he.

          Education was regarded as the way to give yourself the opportunity to improve your life, and parents took a very real interest in their childrens education, even if they were not educated themselves.

          Thus the huge difference between those who want to learn and those who choose to just drift.

          But then I guess India does not pay kids any form of benefit to stay at home and do nothing, like we do here.

          • Rebecca Hanson
            Posted August 20, 2012 at 7:41 am | Permalink

            Fine, build massive barns if you like. But don’t teach children in failing multistory prestressed concrete buildings.

          • alan jutson
            Posted August 20, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Permalink


            I was not suggesting we build barns here, I was just outlining a comparison with the situation here where we say education is failing, and we blame all sorts of things including buildings, and a situation in India, where they have got excellent results, from very basic means and very little cost.

            The huge difference, application of the mind, willingness of the spirit, and parents who drive education for their kids sake.

            The frightening thing is what would they do with our facilities using their teachers, their rules, their system, their discipline and their examinations.

          • Rebecca Hanson
            Posted August 21, 2012 at 8:17 am | Permalink

            I’m just pointing out that as the BBC news said on this topic, schools are being forced to sell their fields because they need essential rebuilds. Not fancy rebuilds – essential rebuilds.

            The money which should have come from central government for them has been squandered on pet projects of those in charge of the purse strings, not by the local authorities. The school I’ve referred to ended up with a fancy and expensive rebuild but not needed or wanted at a local level. A simple staged rebuild on the same site would have been far, far cheaper but it was never an option because there was no link between Blair’s vision and the reality of what was actually needed on the ground. And now under Gove it is all far, far worse as the pet projects are clearly less well conceived and are being much more aggressively implemented.

  7. oldtimer
    Posted August 19, 2012 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    Another sensible post.

  8. Alex
    Posted August 19, 2012 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    It is ludicrous that an individual school’s playing field is anything to do with the national government. It’s a local issue. This is a perfect example of how central government bleats about how short of resources it is, and then proceeds to meddle in and micro-manage local issues. How about slimming down the DfE and returning the savings to schools?
    What next, a £100 million DfE investigation into the quality of the teabags in every school’s staffroom?

    • outsider
      Posted August 19, 2012 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

      Dear Alex,
      Your argument would be correct if schools were financed locally.

  9. Electro-Kevin
    Posted August 19, 2012 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    During school holidays our school caretaker used to open the grounds for the kids – the tennis courts were set up for our use too. It proved to be an important local asset for teenagers.

    • Electro-Kevin
      Posted August 19, 2012 at 11:44 am | Permalink

      The problem is that these fields often end up with rabbit hutches built on them. So not only do the kids have no fields to play on, they live in cramped housing too.

      I was struck by how obese British people are by comparison to other nations when I went abroad recently. They happened to be the only ones with tattoos above the collar too btw.

      When we have reached the point that we are so desperate for space as to need to consider selling off school playing fields – and to start building on green belt land – shouldn’t alarm bells be ringing ?

      We can’t, on the one hand, state that we need to turn school playing fields over to housing and then say we no longer have need of school playing fields.

      This doesn’t stack up.

      More housing means there are more children, surely ?

      (The open access playing fields from my youth, which I mention in my previous comment, is where I got my habit for keeping fit which I continue to this day. No gym membership required – just a pair of trainers.)

      • lifelogic
        Posted August 19, 2012 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

        I can assure you there are plenty of French, German, Belgium and Dutch on the beaches of the South of France who are very plump indeed and very many have blurred & faded tattoos too.

        Why, exactly, do people want blurred permanent tattoos when they can have un-blurred temporary ones. It is rather like saying I always want to wear this t-shirt for the rest of my life?

        • Electro-Kevin
          Posted August 20, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

          The tattoos only become blurred after long periods of heavy drinking.

          • Bazman
            Posted August 20, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

            By the viewer drinking, the person with the tat drinking or both?
            Tat, Tache, flash clothes/jewellery and car with go faster stripes, beer gut. Women love it.

    • alan jutson
      Posted August 19, 2012 at 11:08 pm | Permalink


      Our local school used to do the same for our kids, under supervision of parents who used to operate a rota system.

      That was until the Council realised that no one had a lifeguard certificate, thus the pool was closed, as were the rest of the facilities.

      • Electro-Kevin
        Posted August 20, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

        I’d blame lawyers for that one, Alan.

        • lifelogic
          Posted August 20, 2012 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

          I blame the lawyer for almost everything, after the politicians that is.

  10. Richard
    Posted August 19, 2012 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    Can I be the first to predict that you will see a very long post from Rebecca saying that she doesn’t like Mr Gove very much.

    • Iain Gill
      Posted August 19, 2012 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

      thanks for making me laugh

      not just politics but entertainment too

      great site

      • Rebecca Hanson
        Posted August 19, 2012 at 7:52 pm | Permalink


        I quite like Mr Gove actually.

        I just think he’d be better running (an undemocratic-ed) state than a department for education. But I do understand there are some here who think the two skills sets are or should be the same. This is a free forum and those who’ve no experience of teaching or of sorting out students from tough backgrounds have every equal right to speak their minds and of course frequently do express the deep truth that every comp in 2012 should be a 1950s grammar school and that if it doesn’t feel like one clearly all the teachers are useless and should be (disciplined-ed). 🙂

        Reply: You do let your intense dislike of him and what he stands for shine through everything you write, which can lead people to question its independence.

        • Iain Gill
          Posted August 19, 2012 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

          the problem is so many folk in middle to top layers of the public sector are so set in their ways and useless that anyone who really wants to change things needs to find ways of getting things done. “yes minister” is a bit too true. i am sure he is making mistakes but the status quo and the public sector default behaviour in the education sector cannot be tolerated. we need to do a whole lot better for the children. personally i think the best thing he could do would be to turn over as much power to the parents as possible and quickly!

          • Rebecca Hanson
            Posted August 19, 2012 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

            If the upper echelons of the civil service are the problem them Mr Gove has only himself to blame as he’s personally got rid of those he doesn’t like and brought in his own people.

        • Rebecca Hanson
          Posted August 19, 2012 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

          I sometimes post when I’m angry John and I think sometimes that anger comes through as being personal dislike for Michael Gove. It’s not. I’m just upset by the very really and distressing consequences of his behaviour as Secretary of State for Education.

  11. Rebecca Hanson
    Posted August 19, 2012 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    It’s good the Murdoch press doing a balanced job of presenting the results of the DFE research which found that the London Challenge/City Challenge initiative which produced much betters results in school improvement for far less cost and Gove’s initiatives (wound up by Gove in 2011).

    • Rebecca Hanson
      Posted August 19, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

      Murdoch/Tory press 🙂

      • Rebecca Hanson
        Posted August 19, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

        The post this followed had links to today’s articles on education in the press to illustrated the distance between Gove and Murdoch, but it had hyperlinks to them in so hasn’t appeared.

        Following the recent report by the DFE which found that the city challenge program shut down by Gove in 2011 was far more successful than the academies program at improving school performance (listen for example to Monday’s Today program – shortly before the end), there is an excellent article in the Sun today which provides a balanced analysis of this report (search for Gove Sun).

  12. Iain Gill
    Posted August 19, 2012 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    I agree with what you say. BUT
    Given what Cameron said on the today programme a few mornings ago and what we have learnt since then he really ought to be out in public apologising, expressing fury that the civil service advised ministers so badly on what was going on, and demanding that heads roll in the civil service (because the public can see none of these folk ever suffer for messing up badly like this). Grove similar.
    I don’t think this is the kind of thing which should be centrally controlled. It should be left to individual schools to decide yes BUT ONLY if the individual parents have access to a free market in schools. It needs the competitive pressure real parents having real choice would have on schools to counterbalance local school leadership from running things like badly or like bean counters.
    It’s also worth noting that I know what has happened to my old school paying grounds and I can see very well they have been built on for houses, I am sure many other people can see the same. Granted this happened under a labour government and a labour council but I can still see the affects. A little honesty here would go a long way.

  13. David John Wilson
    Posted August 19, 2012 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    Governments and local authorities have very strong reasons for selling open spaces of various types just for the money with very little recognition of the affect on future generations. You only have to look at the wanton destruction of the green space in the centre of Wokingham by the local council over the last thirty years. They are currently pressing ahead with a further destruction of open space, mature trees etc. against the wishes of most of the population who have any real interest.

    It must be recognised that school playing fields in many cases are not just a facility available to the pupils but also often a green lung and refuge for wildlife needed by the local residents. It is thus vital that these green spaces are preserved and made more widely available to the local population.

  14. Magnolia
    Posted August 19, 2012 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    I went to state schools in SE England during the 1960s and 1970s. They were set within middle class suburban areas and had vast playing fields which were open and unfenced with the boundary just the pavement or footpaths. In those days kids played out and during the holidays those fields became extended lawns and gardens for playing on. Not everyone wanted to kick a ball and some of us just walked and chatted but we certainly got a lot of exercise just walking round the fields because they were so big. I’ve looked on Google Earth and those playing fields are still there just as I remembered them. For the record I was slim and very fit and active as a youngster and it build a habit of exercise for life. I’ve lived in Yorkshire for many years now but I rarely see schools here with playing fields as big as the ones that I used as a child and I think it is a great pity. The playing fields are freedom for kids and although John makes a good case here for schools to govern themselves, the reality will be pressure for buildings development and financial rewards for sell offs. I don’t believe that playing fields that have to be accessed via parent or school transport will give children the same quality of freely indulged exercise on the doorstep that I had as a child. The other benefit of playing fields over parks is that the dog walkers kept off them with obvious advantages!

  15. peter davies
    Posted August 19, 2012 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    The problem is often stoke up by the press in their headline because it sounds dramatic and sell papers. Often there’s a story behind the reason and if there are sound enough guidelines and the school retains adequate playing space then in most cases as you say these types of issues should stay as local otherwise we have more of this top down central government which many want to move away from.

  16. Bazman
    Posted August 19, 2012 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    Are the playing fields of Eton in any danger from developers?

    • Iain Gill
      Posted August 19, 2012 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

      Cameron made a big deal of the fact his kids go to a state school without playing fields. In Kensington High Street (I am sure his security detail had a fit). Now I know Ken High St is one of those struggling areas with sink schools 🙂 I thought his whole position on this exposed how little he understood.

      I wonder how I would get on trying to get my kids into a state school as far away from where I live as Ken High St is from his address. But then some pigs are more equal than others in this Orwellian nightmare we live in.

      I have full faith the parents who can afford to live in Ken High St catchment area are funding exceptional sports provision for their kids. Its the ordinary parents living in more humble areas who have problems.

      • outsider
        Posted August 19, 2012 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

        Dear Mr Gill,
        The Camerons’ eldest surviving child is no more than eight, so perhaps playing fields are not terribly important.

    • outsider
      Posted August 19, 2012 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

      Dear Bazman,
      Your point covers most of the issues in one neat query.

  17. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted August 19, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    Another example of the rigidity of modern thinking, I am afraid. Let’s try asking the right questions in the right order.

    Is the total acreage of school playing fields going down?
    If so, is there a trend from team sports to individual sports? It’s hard to image training for the triathlon using just a school playing field?
    If the total acreage is going down and there is no trend towards individual sports, then perhaps we should be concerned.

    It shouldn’t be beyond the competence of MoE to put out a summary of what is happening.

  18. Neil Craig
    Posted August 19, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    With all the backslapping about placing 3rd in golds and 4th in medals, with the home advantage, in the Olympics I would like to point to som,ething enormously more important where we do better.

    In numbers of scientific papers cited Britain places 3rd after the US & China; in numbers of people citing them, excluding self citations, we place 2nd, ahead of China. In citations per capita we obviously exceed them or any other country of similar size. Switzerland, Sweden, the Netherlands and Finland exceed us per capita, but that is a relatively minor matter.

    This is the best, perhaps only good measure of scientific competence.

    It is obviously far more important than running fast. Yet it receives virtually no media coverage

    The relevance to whether we should be making a mahor fuss about school sports is obvious.

  19. Muddyman
    Posted August 19, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    Well said Martin.
    My school had no playing field or open area, Wednesday afternoons we carried the equipment to the local park or attended the local swimming baths, no problem.

    • outsider
      Posted August 19, 2012 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

      Dear muddyman,
      So no practice after school on Monday, Tuesday, Thursdayor Friday.

  20. Mark
    Posted August 19, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    Much more of a problem will be finding playing fields for the new schools that will have to be built to accommodate the children of the immigration surge. Live births in the UK were 807,000 in 2010, compared with just 669,000 in 2002. More school places required soon…

    • Winston Smith
      Posted August 20, 2012 at 10:46 am | Permalink

      At last someone tells the truth. A local school is doubling its size by buliding on its playing field to cope with the surge in demand in school places. It has remained the same size for 40yrs. Most of the schools developing their land are expanding. Why do they need more classrooms? Why are there more pupils? Why is the birthrate higher? MASS IMMIGRATION! Ssshh…don’t tell anyone.

  21. Pete the Bike
    Posted August 19, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps the problem is education is a political football that everyone has an opinion about even when they have no children at school. If the state were not involved and the education of a child was entirely a matter for the parents, school and child (when old enough) the situation would be clearer and education would be better.

    • outsider
      Posted August 19, 2012 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

      This is true. As Bazman has pointed out, Eton does not appear to have sold off its playing fields.

    • APL
      Posted August 20, 2012 at 9:40 am | Permalink

      Pete the Bike: “Perhaps the problem is education is a political football .. ”


      The government shouldn’t be in Education at all.

  22. uanime5
    Posted August 19, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    What about the 5 times Gove overruled independent advisors to approve the sale of schools fields; including the time he overruled advice not a sell a school field in exchange for funding for a controversial free school? Surely this isn’t in the best interests of the local people.

  23. waramess
    Posted August 19, 2012 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    Surely the whole point of education and schools is to pass on knowledge from one generation to another. Slowly the neo liberal influence has so widened the role of “education” as to give this nobel aim a subsidiary role in the curriculum.

    Why should schools be tasked with providing sports facilities? Absolutely no reason at all that I can see, other than they have charge of children for a certain part of each weekday.

    If schools returned to their core task I suspect there would be a great benefit to the children they are supposed to serve.

    • outsider
      Posted August 19, 2012 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

      Dear Waramess,
      So private schools are doing the wrong thing, endangering their children’s core education and wasting resources; the comprehensive schools are better focused and parents who customarily insist on sport (and other “non-core” activities) when they buy education directly out of their own pockets are at best misguided and possibly too crazy to be allowed to spend their own money?

      • waramess
        Posted August 20, 2012 at 10:32 am | Permalink

        Why I wonder do you think I should applaud private schools organising sport? Sport has its place for youngsters but not, in my view, at school nor as a mandatory “subject”.

  24. Jon
    Posted August 19, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    Valid points but there is still a disconnect here I feel over the last 30 years.

    2 large playing field areas where I grew up were sold off for housing against a lot of local opposition. I can understand if a school is closed that the building area is sold for housing but its also the fields that were owned by the community or state and the councils seem to ignore local views and sell the land for housing.

    The cumulative effect is what matters here and why when so often its against local wants that it gets sold for housing.

    I also feel that this area is headed by academics who often hated sport. They profess the need for compulsory maths, English etc but because physical activity was not their subject that that area should be left to choice or those who can afford to drive their kids to the remaining fields. All these areas are important including the creative arts if we are to engage all children through a sense of achievement and eventually into jobs that suit them where they will excel and be more productive in.

  25. Bob
    Posted August 19, 2012 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    What’s important is what is done with the funds that are raised from the sale? The money should be pooled to provide shared communal facilities which can be utilised during weekends and holidays and may also be used in case of emergencies to provide temporary accommodation or medical treatment.

  26. merlin
    Posted August 19, 2012 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

    As usual the basic problem with education is that it was nationalised in the early 20th century and we all know that nationalisation equals failure look at the past.Governments cannot run anything successfully.

  27. David Langley
    Posted August 20, 2012 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    Yes leave these decisions to the local people. Central government light touch, not interfering with local government but supporting when asked. Problem is party dogma and a Secretary who is busily interfering and looking for something to justify lots of TV and media interest in him not the topic. This is one of the problems, get noticed get looking good and get promoted and never mind the local issues.

  28. John Harrison
    Posted August 20, 2012 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    All the points and arguments raised on this subject are predicated on the notion that organised sport and games can ONLY be done by schools on dedicated school playing fields. This assumes that there are school teachers willing and able to referee and coach such activities or the schools are able to employ teachers specifically for them which adds a not insubstantial cost to the running of the school. There is also considerable redundancy since the playing fields are seldom used during school holidays.

    We need to rethink sport (especially at secondary level) away from the idea that only schools can provide it for young people. We should be thinking of helping sports clubs to take on far more youngsters – cricket clubs, football clubs, netball clubs and so on. Clubs that recruit ‘school age’ members should have finacial help based on numbers and attendance. Their coaches and groundsmen should receive some sort of financial assistance – as well as appropriate accreditation (which may be obtained through experience and not simply through formal qualifications). Most of us can remember games coaches who had little formal education but who could perform – to our immature eyes anyway – like Olympians.

    Young people who aspire to greatness in their chosen line of sport join a club. They do not rely on inadequate school facilities or coaching. Clubs have dedicated coaches who work long hours, with little financial help in many cases, motivated by their love of the sport and their desire to see their trainees progress as far as they wish to or physically are able.

    Not everything has to be done by schools.

  29. Julian
    Posted August 20, 2012 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    I don’t believe the land used by these playing fields is needed for other uses – for the most part. There may be cases where a school needs to expand or a road needs to be re-routed etc. But as a general principle there is no shortage of land to build on its just that developers prefer green virgin land to the numerous brown-field sites that could be used. As an aside there is also no housing shortage so no need for any large scale house building – there are many unoccupied council properties.

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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