London 2012 Olympics: 70% of Scottish medallists state-educated

Sir Chris Hoy: To be given freedom of Edinburgh
Sir Chris Hoy: To be given freedom of Edinburgh
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SEVENTY per cent of Scotland’s Olympic medal winners went to state schools, despite suggestions that privately educated athletes dominate Team GB.

Lord Moynihan, chairman of the British Olympic Association, called for an overhaul of sport in schools after describing a “wholly unacceptable” situation where many of Britain’s gold, silver and bronze medals had been won by those who went to private schools.

Scott Brash: attended Peebles High School in the Borders. Picture: Getty

Scott Brash: attended Peebles High School in the Borders. Picture: Getty

But among Scots athletes, the majority of those to have won medals went to state schools, with only Sir Chris Hoy,
canoeist David Florence and rower Heather Stanning educated privately.

Figures show that at the last Olympics, Beijing 2008, a third of Team GB had been educated at independent schools, nearly 40 per cent of British medal
winners and 50 per cent of the gold 

The figure emerged as Prime Minister David Cameron warned that there must be “a big cultural change” towards sport in schools if Britain was to capitalise on the success of Team GB.

Mr Cameron called for a return to the “competitive ethos” in school sports, and he hit out at teachers unwilling to play their part in coaching and
mentoring young talent.

Katherine Grainger: the rower attended state school. Picture: Getty

Katherine Grainger: the rower attended state school. Picture: Getty

Team GB has won 48 medals so far at London 2012, including ten by Scots athletes.

Speaking last week, Lord Moynihan said the dominance of privately educated athletes, who won half of Britain’s medals at the Beijing Games, was “one of the worst statistics in British sport”.

The former Conservative MP, who is himself privately educated, called for an urgent overhaul of school sport policy.

He said: “There is so much
talent out there in the 93 per cent that should be identified and developed. That has got to be a priority for future sports policy. I have spoken about it many times, and I will continue to speak about it until there is no breath left in me.”

Lord Moynihan pointed to the ratio of private to state school pupils in football as an example of what Olympic sport should aim for.

He said: “The balance of professional football is that about
7 per cent of players come from the private sector, which is an absolute mirror image of society.

“That should be the case in every single sport and that should be the priority in each and every sport, and that is something that every government should strive for.

“The way you do it is you focus on a sports policy that is primarily geared to providing a sporting opportunity.”

However, analysis of those stepping on to the podium for Scotland and Britain shows that seven out of ten went to state schools.

Among those are rower Katherine Grainger, gold winner in the double sculls. who attended Bearsden Academy, and Scott Brash, who was part of the showjumping team that took gold, who went to Peebles High School.

Swimmer Michael Jamieson, who won silver in the 200m breaststroke, attended the Glasgow School of Sport, where young athletes train while completing their academic studies
at Bellahouston Academy. Angie Porter, the school’s director, said there was plenty of talent in the state sector, but it needed nurturing.

“We select young people when they’re in P7. You definitely need the support mechanisms,” Ms Porter said.

“People like Michael and 100 per cent of our [Team GB] Olym­pians would still have the commitment to succeed, but I don’t think they would be able to make the difference to their performance that gets them into medal positions, were it not for the support they have had.

“I’m not privately educated myself, so I don’t know what the system is like. Private schools perhaps have more funding and flexibility, but the School of Sport has got where it is today because people recognise we need structures in place.”

She said many schools were yet to recover from the effects of cutbacks, which saw the selling of sports facilities, such as playing fields, during the 1980s.

“From my own experience, it’s a struggle [in schools] to give sport the focus it needs. PE gets squeezed out,” she said.

Despite suggestions that those who went to independent schools are dominating, unofficial figures suggest that about 68 per cent of those competing at London 2012 for Team GB were schooled in the state sector.

Professor Grant Jarvie, chair of sport at Edinburgh University, said Lottery funding had helped to widen participation.

He said: “The issue is perhaps not where you went to, but the degree to which you can successfully combine sport and education, and this is the case whether it is school, college or university.

“However, one of the key major factors that has attributed to GB sporting success has been the advent of Lottery funding.

“We should recognise the
social and economic value of sport to both Scotland and the UK. We should recognise that combining sport and education is an investment that works.

“We should recognise that Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah, [Scottish badminton player] Susan Eggle­staff, Michael Jamieson, Chris Hoy and Andy Murray have all benefited from sport and education in different ways, but what unites them is greater than that which divides them.

“They are all part of a successful, united Team GB team that clearly fed off each other’s success rather than the differences.”

Yesterday, the Prime Minster said the UK government would invest £1 billion in school sport in England over the next four years.

But he added: “Frankly, if the only problem was money, you’d solve this with money.

“The problem has been too many schools wanting to have competitive sport, some teachers not wanting to join in and play their part.”

However, according the Scottish Government, the country will not benefit from this cash, which was first announced in January this year. But Ann Ballinger, general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA), said teachers and schools were often hamstrung by a lack of resources.

She said: “Schools have to work really hard to get the
appropriate resources for PE. Often it is an individual decision made by schools to spend money on these resources.

“Things like the School of Sport give an opportunity to kids that don’t otherwise get the chance to try and to excel.

“In Scotland, the vast majority of teachers are open to opportunity and work really hard to encourage pupils. It’s an uphill struggle for PE teachers, it’s a constant battle, but they work exceptionally hard.”

Scotland’s sports minister, Shona Robison, said: “We’re working very hard to make sure that no matter your background, if you’re good at a sport you can go all the way. We’re increasing investment in PE and we are opening up schools to become community sports hubs.”