School sports feel the heat of lost Olympic dreams

SPORT will not be included as a mandatory element when the new national school curriculum for health and physical education is introduced in 2014.

Instead, as a nation seeks ways to repair its dented sporting pride, the question will be left to state education departments and private school systems.

Australia's Olympic chief, John Coates, has blamed the federal government's failure to make sport compulsory as one of the reasons behind a disappointing Olympics.

The team's performances in the pool were so poor that Swimming Australia yesterday announced an independent review into the failure to win an individual gold medal for the first time since the Montreal games of 1976.

Sport is compulsory in virtually every NSW school, including the entire public system, prompting the Premier, Barry O'Farrell, to tell those wishing to turn fingers of blame on NSW schools to point them somewhere else.

But Steve Georgakis, a lecturer in the faculty of education at the University of Sydney and the author of Youth Sport in Australia, says a bad situation is set to get worse with a national curriculum. Even mandated sport in NSW schools has been ''completely residualised'', he said.

''It's there because it's a bludge for many teachers and also for many students as well. It's a way of filling in an afternoon of school time. They may as well not be there at all but in 2014 it's going to be a lot worse.''

But when it comes to watching television, Australian children are up there with the best, with a new study finding almost 50 per cent of children watch more than the recommended maximum of two hours each day.

Growing up in Australia, a longitudinal study of children, found 46 per cent of six-year-olds watch more than two hours' TV each weekday. On weekends, the figure rises to 52 per cent. One-third of eight-year-olds watch six hours of TV at the weekend.

''The evidence is convincing that a high TV viewing kid is going to be less physically active and play less organised sport,'' Professor Jo Salmon, of the school of exercise and nutrition sciences at Deakin University, said.

Dr Georgakis said Australia needs a system that supports grassroots sport. ''We need to institutionalise and value sport in the education system, promote a mass sport model for all and then you can identify gifted and talented students and give them a pathway in which they can excel,'' he said.

Two leading principals say sporting bodies need to lift their games when it comes to schools.

''I'm always amazed the state and national bodies aren't coming into our schools and seeing what we are doing. I would have thought that would be a priority for them,'' Roger Davis, the principal of Westfields Sports High, said. ''They should be coming into the schools, especially the sports selective high schools, and telling us 'this is the direction we are going, this is the way we want your coaches to be coaching'.''

Shane Hogan, the headmaster of Riverview and the chairman of GPS Headmasters Association, agreed. ''No one is talking to us at all,'' he said. ''Unless we seek them out - and pay them - it's not going to happen.

''If the kids are good enough they can get there but they are not coming and talking to us [asking] if our coaches aren't good enough, are there things they can help with?''

The story School sports feel the heat of lost Olympic dreams first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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