Thursday, 2 August 2012

Let's celebrate Independent School Olympic success

One of the remarkable aspects of the Independent sector is its ability to produce world class sportsmen and sportswomen. A disproportionate number of those who have won Olympic medals in the past few Olympics were educated in Independent Schools and London 2012 is going to be no exception. If UK Independent Schools were a country it would be 12th in the Medal table.

Congratulations to the following former pupils of Independent Schools who have won medals for Team GB at the London Games:

Gold Medals:
  • Helen Glover (Millfield School) Rowing - Coxless Pair
  • Heather Stanning (Gordonstoun School) Rowing - Coxless Pair
  • Peter Wilson (Millfield School) Shooting - Double Trap
  • Sir Chris Hoy (George Watson's) Cycling - Team Sprint
  • Tom James (King's, Chester) Rowing - Coxless Four
  • Andrew Triggs Hodge (Belmont Grosvenor) Rowing - Coxless Four
  • Ben Ainslie (Truro) Sailing -Finn
  • Katherine Copeland (The Yarm School) Rowing - Lightweight Double Skulls
  • Sophie Hoskin (Kingston Grammar) Rowing - Lightweight Double Skulls
  • Alistair Brownlee (Bradford Grammar) Triathlon
  • Laura Bechtolsheimer (Stonar and St Mary's Calne) Equestrian - Team Dressage
  • Karl Hester (Elizabeth College, Guernsey) Equestrian - Team Dressage
  • Sir Chris Hoy (George Watson's) Cycling - Keirin
Silver Medals:
  • Mary King (Manor House School, Honiton) Equestrian Eventing - Team
  • Zara Phillips (Gordonstoun School) Equestrian Eventing - Team
  • Tina Cook (Bedgebury School) Equestrian Eventing - Team
  • William Fox-Pitt (Eton) Equestrian Eventing - Team
  • Nicola Wilson (Teeside High School) Equestrian Eventing - Team
  • Chris Bartley (King's Chester) Rowing - Lightweight Four
  • Richard Chambers (Coleraine Academical Institution) Rowing - Lightweight Four
  • Peter Chambers (Coleraine Academical Institution) Rowing - Lightweight Four
  • David Florence (Stewart's Melville College) Canoe - Double
  • Zac Purchase (King's Worcester) Rowing - Lightweight Double Skulls
  • Laura Robson (St Catherine's, Twickenham)
  • Iain Percy (King Edward VI, Southampton) Sailing - Star
  • Andrew Simpson (Pangbourne) Sailing - Star
  • Hannah Mills (Howell's) Sailing - 470
Bronze Medals:
  • Alex Partridge (Monkton Combe) Rowing - Men's Eight
  • Phelan Hill (Bedford School) Rowing - Men's Eight
  • Tom Ransley (King's Canterbury) Rowing - Men's Eight
  • Greg Searle (Hampton School) Rowing - Men's Eight
  • Constatine Louloudis (Eton) Rowing - Men's Eight
  • George Nash (Winchester) Rowing - Men's Pair
  • Will Satch (Shiplake) Rowing - Men's Pair
  • Alan Campbell (Coleraine Academical Institution) Rowing - Single Skulls
  • Nick Skelton (Bablake) Equstrian - Team Show-jumping
  • Beth Tweddle (Queen's, Chester) Gymnastics - Uneven Bars
  • Alistair Brownlee (Bradford Grammar) Triathlon
  • Alex Danson (Farnborough Hill) Hockey
  • Laura Bartlett (Glasgow Academy) Hockey
  • Crista Cullen (Oakham) Hockey
  • Ashleigh Ball (St Edward's, Cheltenham) Hockey
  • Anne Panter (Wellingborough) Hockey
  • Georgie Twigg (Repton) Hockey
  • Nicola White (Hulme Grammar, Oldham) Hockey
  • Tom Daley (Plymouth College) Diving 10m
Congratulations also to Ruta Meilutyte (Plymouth College) who won gold in the 100 metres breaststroke earlier this week for Lithuania.

(I am endebted to Malcolm Tozer of Physical Education and Sport in Independent Schools who is providing these data to ISC.)

According to last week's Daily Telegraph (Team GB chief: dominance of public schools is unacceptable") Lord Moynihan, Chairman of the British Olympic Association, has condemned the dominance of public school-educated athletes in Team GB as “wholly unacceptable” and called for an overhaul of the education system to increase the number of state-school pupils winning medals.
"Around 50% of the medals won by Team GB in Beijing in 2008 were secured by athletes educated in the independent sector, who make up just seven percent of the population."
It is one of the worst statistics in British sport, and wholly unacceptable that over 50% of our medallists in Beijing came from independent schools, which means that half of our medals came from just seven percent of the children in the UK.
There is so much talent out there in the 93% which should be identified and developed and given equal opportunity through a sports policy that reaches out to able-bodied and disable children whatever their background."
(Lord Moynihan was educated at Monmouth School, and at University College, Oxford, where he won Blues for both Rowing and Boxing.)

This is a typical British negative reaction to success. Why not celebrate that we have outstanding independent schools in this country, who not only produce some of the best academic results in the world (according to the PISA survey) but also produce some world class sportsmen and women? I support fully the call for better sporting opportunities in the Maintained Sector, but let's not knock those areas where we are doing well.

The greater threat to the standard of British sporting success is that the Governing bodies of some sports - Rugby, Hockey and Cricket to name but three - are continually putting obstacles in the way of top independent school pupils combining School and Representative sport. Independent School pupils are discouraged from playing school sport and even to leave top sporting schools to participate in the centralised Academy structures. Bearing in mind that over half of the World Cup winning Rugby and Ashes winning Cricket sides were independent school educated, this approach is very short-sighted indeed.

Rowing is far more enlightened. It acknowledges the excellence in coaching at Eton, Radley, Hampton et al., but also have an outreach programme to pupils who do not have the advantage of going to a school that happens to own an Olympic rowing lake.

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