Protect play areas of future Olympians – 38 degrees petition

Janet Downs's picture
From 38 degrees:

“It’s just emerged that over a million children could lose the fields where they play.  The Education Secretary, Michael Gove, has quietly relaxed the rules protecting school playing fields. Many people are worried that this could open the door for them to be sold off to developers.”

“Without playing fields it’s hard to imagine the children of today - the Team GB of tomorrow - will ever match this year’s record Olympic medal haul. If playing fields are sold off and built on, there’ll be no way to get them back. Once they're gone, they're gone.”

“Right now David Cameron and his Government won't want a scandal about school playing fields taking the shine off the Olympic legacy.  There’s a great chance that if tens of thousands of 38 Degrees members create a public outcry by building a big petition, Michael Gove will back down to make sure the Olympic after-party continues on a high.”

“For lots of people, playing outside at break time left them with some of their happiest memories of school. But happy memories aren’t the only long-term benefit of having proper places for children to play. Running around outside gives children the chance to get into good exercise habits early in life. And it can help them concentrate in class the rest of the time, so they learn faster.”

“The Government is already feeling the heat - already a national newspaper has launched a campaign on this issue.  We can build on this pressure and, together, we can make that final push to persuade Michael Gove to do the right thing.”

“We’ve already had one great success around the Olympics - our massive petition persuaded sponsors not to take advantage of a tax-break available to them. Together, as the Paralympic Games approach, we have a great chance of persuading the Government to protect the play areas of our future Olympians.”

Click here to sign the petition.



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Sarah's picture
Thu, 16/08/2012 - 17:36

For once I think the government has got a point when it says that the rules around disposing of school playing fields has tightened rather than slackened - it's actually quite onerous getting approval for a disposal. Of course that's largely because the government want to check on whether they could build a free school on it before they allow a local authority to sell it!

You do have to be able to demonstrate that there is no potential community use of the land (or any school in the immediate area with too little space) and any proceeds have to go back into local sports provision. The vast majority of applications are for schools that have closed, not for the selling off of surplus space at open schools.

The change to the School Premises Regulations is an entirely different matter. What the government has done is got rid of the regulations that specify how big an area of playing field land a school needs. Now the rules will say the area just needs to be 'suitable' for outdoor play and PE. The reason behind it was to make it easier for free schools to be set up on small sites and to make it easier for schools to expand on tight sites to provide extra places.

These changes were consulted upon earlier in the year and most local authorities objected then to them on the basis that it would make it harder to get decent sized school sites set aside for new schools when developers wanted to build new housing developments and it would risk hard pressed authorities cutting corners on sports pitch provision.

What's gone unnoticed is that they've got rid of a whole load of other regulations that determined how many toilets schools had to have etc.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 17/08/2012 - 07:57

Thanks, Sarah, for pointing out the changes under the new School Premises Regulations which seems to have gone largely unreported. The Guardian wrote: "The new regulations for schools in England state simply that "suitable" outdoor space must be provided to teach PE and let pupils play outside. It is part of a broader relaxation of rules on school buildings, which include scrapping requirements on washing facilities for pupils. The School Premises (England) Regulations 2012 were approved by schools minister Lord Hill on 19 July, a week ahead of the Olympics' opening ceremony. The guidelines come into force at the end of October."

It appears, then, if the Guardian is correct, that the Government doesn't much care about whether children have sufficient space or adequate facilities to keep clean. I don't think parents are going to be very happy when they realise their children are expected to be educated in sub-standard buildings. It would appear that premises for prisoners will be expected to be of higher standard than those for the nation's school children.

The Government says that it's cutting "red tape". But that doesn't mean slashing it to such an extent that schools can be in substandard premises.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Fri, 17/08/2012 - 06:33

Here's a link to last night's news story that the DFE has been overruling the advice they've been given and the figures they provided were not correct.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 17/08/2012 - 07:46

It seems Gove is playing the "Blame it onto officials" card. I wonder if he'll claim that officials were also responsible for the mass of misinformation that comes from Mr Gove's lips.

Sarah's picture
Fri, 17/08/2012 - 13:51

It's indefensible for them to produce the wrong numbers - but the DfE does have form for this (remember the cancelling of BSF for example).

With regard to the overruling of advice it's important to bear in mind that if the panel recommends refusal local authorities are given the opportunity to produce further information - and this information can help to support the LA's case for disposal because it can provide important contextual information which is not requested on the approval form. So ministers will take into account both what the panel recommends and the school or authority's case for disposal before reaching a judgement - which is really as it should be. I think it's hard to take issue with this - there will always be circumstances where a disposal is justified.

I think there should be much greater transparency however including where the DfE refuses disposal on the basis that they want to give a school site to a free school!

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 17/08/2012 - 15:22

Mr Gove has form when it comes to ignoring evidence despite his oft-repeated mantra that his policies are underpinned by evidence. Within months of his coming to power morale at the DfE had fallen - much of this crisis was caused by a "This is what we're going to do" attitude regardless of what the evidence said.

He also has form of ignoring expert advice including the Education Select Committee:

And the misinformation coming from the DfE is more likely to come from his supporters (Special Advisers?) than officials who must adhere to the Civil Service Code which requires neutrality:

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