Sebastian Coe: The election race may be on but school sport is being left behind.

The Evening Standard reports that June’s poll should be a chance to refocus minds on the struggle to give talented athletes the platform they need.

Within hours of the Prime Minister’s announcement of an election, the main parties will have started marshalling the troops, and the policy wonks begun thinking up catchy and enticing policies, most of which will never see the light of day once the returning officer has done his bit — some consigned to the knacker’s yard after their first airing on the Nick Ferrari show.

We continue to pay a high price for the misguided nostrums about the ills of competition that came from the teacher training colleges of the Sixties and much of the Seventies. And physical education teachers were left to fight hopeless battles against local education authorities that were infiltrated by middle-class meddlers who never began remotely to understand how important sport was in the lives of many of the working-class families that they purported to represent. Then we hit the Eighties, when school playing fields were sold off though they were not, as the Government tried to tell us, surplus to requirements. 

And in the Nineties we lurched from one underfunded public expenditure round to the next, the National Lottery making a difference to the elite competitor and the user of local sports facilities but unable to staunch the loss of hours devoted to school sport in the timetable. 

And only really in the past decade or so has there been a unanimity of view about the importance of sport in our neighbourhoods, largely as a result of the bipartisan approach that we enjoyed during the London Olympic years. 

Nearly two-thirds of UK Athletics’ medal haul over the past two Olympic Games came from just  three athletes — Jessica Ennis-Hill, Mo Farah and Greg Rutherford, all of them educated in state schools and colleges. This should give us something to build on. Athletics is alive and well there and thriving at school level, taken seriously, coached properly and fully integrated with the local clubs. 

We are well beyond the opening salvos of the general election. I had hoped at the outset that the campaign would not become a sport-free zone. I will wait with interest to see what the parties come up with on school sport — but history tells me that I shouldn’t hold my breath

Read more Sebastian Coe: The election race may be on but school sport is being left behind.

Is there a future for sport in schools? We all know its crucial so why isn’t more being done? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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