Education Aug 4 2010

Should the Premier League run schools?

Immediate reaction to this story, that the Premier League wants to sponsor free schools? This used to be called the silly season when I was a daily newspaper reporter. Parliament has risen, everyone is on holiday, the free schools policy is looking a bit shaky with only 62 applicants, the government wants a gimmick to give it bit of a boost, Richard Scudamore, CEO of the Premier League sat next to the PM on a plane and they dreamt it up together, enthralled by the idea of associating the word ‘premier’ with the words ‘ free’ and ‘ school’. That, unfortunately, is how government often works in an era of 24 hour day news coverage.

However there are a few serious points here. The recommended time for PE/sport in schools ( and not only football since some student do prefer other sports) is already hard to accommodate, especially in KS 4 when pupils understandably want to achieve a broad range of GCSE subjects.

Football academies already exist to meet the needs of the most gifted pupils but since free schools are apparently NOT going to be selective, the Premier League schools will presumably still be required to cater for a broad range of pupils and interests so will inevitably face the timetabling (and possibly staffing) problems that existing schools face, trying to build in time for sport in the school day and after school clubs. This problem may only be compounded in schools that are very small. Apparently some free schools may only have 20 pupils. Moroever coverted shops and office blocks don’t usually have football pitches /gyms to hand.

Then there is the implication that Premier League schools  will somehow improve our national team, but it is  the FA and not the Premier League that is responsible for England squad, indeed it is arguable that the problem with English football is that we don’t have a standard coaching system for all young players, as they have in Germany and other world class footballing countries, but a fragmented coaching system run by individual clubs with no national standards.

The Premier League may conceivably be able to run successful schools ( somehow I doubt it though, most people don’t really understand what running a school involves) but the detail of the story suggests that what Scudamore has in mind is not corporate premiership sponsorship, but individual Premier League clubs, attached to individual schools, in other words another hierarchy to graft on to the one that already exists.

If the Premier League wants to support sport in schools, and I am all for that,  it should do so across the board, maybe putting some of its £1.2 billion turnover into a scheme for nationally trained football coaches for all schools, since extracurricular sport will be the first thing to go once the cuts start to bite.

If this is actually about trying to improve the England squad, maybe the football industry should look in  its own backyardbefore using the school system as a guinea pig.

3 Responses to “Should the Premier League run schools?”

  1. There is also a lot of current research and thinking that says playing sport in one's youth is not the best way to ensure long term healthy lifestyles. Young people who engage with playing sports like football in their youth largely end up as sports watchers in their later twenties and onwards rather than being actively involved in playing. Much current thinking on encouraging healthy lifestyles for young people is around promoting and providing safe routes for cycling and walking to school, as well as lots of smaller scale non-competitive physical activities. Although I dare say that any Premier League run schools would find some other research that suited their own agenda…

  2. […] Fiona Millar ripping apart the idea that getting the football premier league to sponsor free schools is a good […]

  3. David Curtis says:

    The Premier League does nothing for the health of English football and the performance of the national team. So it would be quite consistent that it should be involved in Free Schools and sustain its distortion of priorities focussing on the interests of a self seeking elite. Like the whole Free School “initiative” this has gimmick written all over it – but perhaps a novel twist would be to put the whole thing to a vote of the fans? Oh, forgot, Michael Gove doesn't do votes!

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