Former comprehensive school athletes do our country proud

Nigel Ford's picture
After our phenomenal success in the 2012 Olympics, comprehensive educated Mo Farah, Jess Ennis-Hill and Greg Rutherford have won gold medals in the World Championships for Great Britain.

Private schools have a huge ambition to dominate in sport which is why they invest so heavily in facilities, coaches and bursaries for talented young sports people.

But the state sector has pretty much had a monopoly in producing the finest British athletes for more than 30 years including Kelly Holmes, Paula Radcliffe, Denise Lewis, Sally Gunnell, Tessa Sanderson, Fatima Whitbread, Daley Thompson, Steve Ovett, Seb Coe, Steve Cram and Peter Elliott.

Long may it continue.
Share on Twitter Share on Facebook

Be notified by email of each new post.


Roger Titcombe's picture
Wed, 02/09/2015 - 15:53

Gary Linacre, Crown Hills Comprehensive, Leicester, is also worth a mention. OK, comprehensive educated footballers are not rare, but as well as being one of England's most prolific goalscorers, not only did Gary go through his entire professional career without ever being sent off, he never got even a single yellow card.

Nigel Ford's picture
Wed, 02/09/2015 - 16:30

Like many stars from humble beginnings Gary's children were educated privately, and he hit the headlines 5 years ago blaming Charterhouse school for the failure of his son, George, to secure a place at university. The school had abandoned traditional A'levels in place of the Cambridge Pre U and George had fallen short. Lineker senior thought his son had been used as a guinea pig and felt he hadn't seen a decent return on his financial investment.

I did omit to mention Linford Christie above, very remiss seeing as he was a 100 metre gold medallist, although his career did end in controversy due to being suspended for taking a banned substance.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Wed, 02/09/2015 - 16:51

Yes, he should have followed the example of Paul McCartney.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Wed, 02/09/2015 - 16:52

Gary I mean.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 02/09/2015 - 16:10

And don't forget Louis Smith, gymnast, Arthur Mellows Village College, who also won Strictly Come Dancing.

Henry Stewart's picture
Thu, 03/09/2015 - 20:15

Scanning through a book of football quotes last week I came across a relevant one from Bobby Charlton|

"The World Cup was not won on the playing fields of England. It was won on the streets."

PiqueABoo's picture
Thu, 03/09/2015 - 21:22

Yet we can't ever celebrate comprehensive school children who are academic high-flyers because that would be elitist and make other children sad etc.

Nigel Ford's picture
Fri, 04/09/2015 - 07:26

I think you'll find that not only did the comprehensive school sector put independent schools to shame in the 2012 Olympic events winning 14 out of 18 individual gold medals, but probably outdid them on the academic field.

Gold medal winners, Jess Ennis, Etienne Stott, Tim Bailee were all graduates from RG universities, as was Samantha Murray a silver medallist and Bath University graduate. The 2 comprehensive educated gold medal sculls rowers, Anna Watkins and Kath Grainger, were PhD students in Maths and Medical Law respectively.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 04/09/2015 - 08:01

PiqeuABoo - Guess you've missed all those pictures showing pupils from all types of school leaping in the air after receiving exam results or theirl websites which celebrate their pupils' academic achievement.

Michele -Lowe's picture
Fri, 04/09/2015 - 08:38

Thanks for that point, Nigel. It's not heard nearly often enough. We heard so much about team GB's 2012 medal tally and the part the private schools with their magnificent facilities played. They often have excellent swimming facilities, though I'm struggling to think of a prominent swimmer from the private school world. Willing to stand corrected on this point. But in some genuinely, internationally competitive fields like track and field and football, the former alumni of private education are very thin on the ground.

I wonder whether the wonderful facilities they have are not in part funded by us taxpayers via the charitable status many private schools enjoy. Very nice for the kids in the schools. But they're not shared widely. It puts me in mind of a sketch by Welsh comic, Elis James, on his way to do a gig in Surrey. "Look at those tennis courts. They've got nets!". At another gig in a private school he wandered into the music room and felt compelled to ring his mum. "They've got more pianos in this room than in the whole of Swansea".

I also feel obliged to add that one school in Cardiff North has, in the same generation, produced Sam Warburton and Gareth Bale. Go Whitchurch High!

Nigel Ford's picture
Fri, 04/09/2015 - 09:07

Michael Jamieson, Olympic silver medallist attended a comp in Scotland.

Golden girl, Rebecca Addlington, used to arise before 5.00am to train in her local communal swimming baths in Mansfield.

Michele -Lowe's picture
Fri, 04/09/2015 - 09:32

Swimming's an interesting one. I go to France a lot and everywhere I go, there are swimming facilities. Good ones. Even in the Alpine resorts. Unsurprisingly, the logic of if you build it, they will come, has borne fruit - cf their great results in the pool events. In Wales, I think we have three 50 meter pools. I gather the numbers aren't impressive in England and Scotland. And yet we produce swimmers against all the odds. They deserve an extra medal for resilience.

Michele -Lowe's picture
Fri, 04/09/2015 - 09:40

PiqueABoo, we can, though, celebrate the so-say world class private school system, it seems. It's because they and the grammars are still feted in the public sphere. I can't recall a leading newspaper or any prominent politician trumpeting the successes of comprehensive schools, still less saying much nice about them at all.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 04/09/2015 - 11:36

Only if the comps are academies and even then some of the praised ones (with exceptions like Mossbourne) have intakes skewed to the top end or they inflated their results by heavy use of equivalent exams. For example, Charter Academy, ARK's academy in Portsmouth, was much praised in 2013. But when equivalent exams were removed the proportion gaining 5 GCSEs A*-C including Maths and English dropped from 68% (with equivalents) to 32% (without equivalents).

PiqueABoo's picture
Fri, 04/09/2015 - 23:04

That's children celebrating their results and it takes about 11 years to happen, whereas the school sports teams get praised every time they play a match.

Y8 Sprogette does lots of things really well and I'm struggling to think of any significant public praise any of her ilk have had from school-side. There is definitely a taboo against saying anything much about high attainment/achievement. Note that Ofsted have also remarked on it.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 05/09/2015 - 07:43

When a sports team wins they're representing the school - celebrating their wins is like cheering your favourite football team. The same would be true if the school entered teams for various competitions. Public recognition would be expected. The same holds true for inter-school House competitions.

Individual achievement is, however, different. Public praise can be counter-productive especially among teenagers who might cringe if publicly praised. That's not to say pupils shouldn't be praised but this needs to be targeted at what the pupil did well and not just a vague 'Well done', 'Very good' etc and is better done on a personal, rather than public,basis.

Odd that inspectors should have commented on the lack of 'significant public praise' of high attainment. I've read hundreds of Ofsted reports and never found such a comment. I appreciate you can't name the school because that risks identifying your daughter, but it's an unusual remark to make.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Sat, 05/09/2015 - 09:34

I have always had a problem with praise. We have three children. They have different talents and abilities. For example, they are not all equally academically successful. My guess is that this is true for most families. They all got 'well done comments' from time to time but never over the top and never, ever at the risk of generating suspicion that they may not all have been equally valued.

As for our family, so for my headship school. We did not have a prize day, so no patronising 'effort prize' for the particularly compliant but academically weak pupil in each year. Not all our staff agreed with this and I admit that it is partly a personality trait of mine. I dislike ceremonies of all forms. Our staff and PTA wanted an annual carol concert in the local church, so I went along with it and duly attended. I did not attend either of my degree congregations, but I went along to our children's. Our wedding was a very modest and secular affair and thankfully the same choice was made by our married children.

While sounding off on the subject in general, I especially hate goalscoring 'celebrations', together with winning, and aggressive displays of all kinds by sports persons. I am sick of seeing Andy Murray's tonsils as part of a victory snarl whenever he wins a point.

If I was the manager of Aston Villa, a post for which I am especially well qualified ever since I always pretended to be Derek Dougan or Peter McParland while playing football with my mates in the park/street, and having witnessed decades of shattering failures on the pitch all of which could have been avoided had the manager and players followed my advice, I would insist that after scoring a goal, my players would quietly shake hands before modestly trotting back to the centre circle. And as for Usain Bolt's and Mo Farrar's weird gestures - Ugh!

So coming back to schools, whatever happened to the promotion by example of gentle but firm assertiveness, humility and modesty?

Fortunately, there is a current, well publicised role model. Keep up the good work Jeremy Corbyn! If he wins I might just be running around the lawn punching the air with my fists.

PiqueABoo's picture
Fri, 04/09/2015 - 23:10

It's not the only one, but I think swimming is interesting because it takes over a lot of a child's life at a relatively tender age.

PiqueABoo's picture
Sat, 05/09/2015 - 13:07

It wasn't an Ofsted report about a specific school and "significant public praise" were my words. I don't have the will-power to wade through tedious documents to find it right now, but it was about recognition of high academic attainment and exists somewhere in the pile of stuff around Most Able. Not that I need Wilshaw to tell me there is a “worrying lack of scholarship permeating the culture of too many schools” (one of his speeches).

For me it's not about children like S. getting a pat on the head (she has lots of self-motivation), it's about holding up some role models and openly acknowledging that X is actually better than Y, a more worthy aspiration.

This hit home back in Y6 when several little girls ("Reception buddies") clearly looked up to S. and were forever running across the playground to hug her. Seeing that it struck me that my quite kind/modest daughter made quite a good role model for them, so I suggested she took a recent, very serious 'action girl' achievement to a school achievement assembly where seeing that side of her might help inspire some little girl to grow up a little less obsessed by size-zero celebs on magazine covers etc. S. stubbornly refused and it turned out that was because she didn't want something she was proud of diminished by being treated much the same as earning one of those endless certificates for sitting quietly, or not hitting other children quite so often this week etc.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Sat, 05/09/2015 - 14:56

I am not saying that pupil role models are not important. I think girls and boys peer group hierarchies are very important from a very young age and that schools should try to influence the values that children use in assessing the hierarchy positions of peers.

Also children should be given opportunities to excel and for such excellence to be recognised and acknowledged. I think proper School Councils can be very important here. Children learn a lot from each other and genuine, earnest discussion between pupils about real issues is both cognitively, emotionally and socially productive. Such positive interaction is hindered not helped by heavy handed public praise of particular individuals by teachers/the school.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 06/09/2015 - 08:33

'Around a third of our inspections of secondary schools this year identified issues in the teaching of the most able pupils. Inspectors found that teachers’ expectations of the most able were too low. There is a worrying lack of scholarship permeating the culture of too many schools.'

2013/14 Ofsted Annual Report.

That mean two thirds of secondary schools didn't have 'issues in the teaching of the most able'. Note the report was commenting on the teaching. It doesn't necessarily follow that inspectors were concerned about the lack of public praise.

The 'worrying lack of scholarship' doesn't permeate all schools. And it's unclear what Wilshaw means by 'scholarship.' Does he mean encouraging all pupils of whatever ability to fulfil their potential? If so, this is as it should be. If he means concentrating only on results then he's judging schools too narrowly - there is already too much emphasis on exam results in England and this risks negative consequences (OECD 2011).

agov's picture
Sun, 06/09/2015 - 11:11

This may be Ofsted's current position on the More Able -

Doesn't appear to say anything at all about public praise. It does say this

"The survey evidence shows that the most able students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, were not routinely getting the information, advice and guidance they needed to develop a self-assured approach to preparing for their future studies or their next steps into employment or training. This situation has not changed since our report in 2013."

and this

"The remnants of misplaced ideas about elitism appear to be stubbornly resistant to change in a very small number of schools. One admissions tutor commented:
‘There is confusion (in schools) between excellence and elitism’.

and this

"In 16 of the secondary schools visited, the transfer arrangements with primary schools were not well developed. The information that the schools gathered in this sample was more sophisticated than for those visited in the 2013 report. However, while the schools were now more likely to find out about students’ strengths and weaknesses, this information was rarely used well. The secondary schools in this survey sample also had more frequent and extended contact with primary schools through different subject specialist teachers to routinely identify which pupils were most able than in the previous study. However, these links between specialists and non-specialist teachers were not always used effectively, for example to spot gaps in students’ learning. Only one had a specific curriculum pathway for these students. The reluctance to introduce specific support or enhancements to meet the needs of the most able in Key Stage 3 was captured by one headteacher’s comment that it would be ‘a bit elitist’. More commonly, leaders did not see the need to do anything differently for the most able as a specific group. Headteachers and assessment leaders considered tracking the progress of the most able to be sufficient. Using this information to improve the curriculum and teaching strategies for these students was rare."

Ofsted visited 40 secondary/all-through schools (plus 10 schools in the primary sector) for the report.

Commenting on the report Laura McInerney said "when a head must support every child in their community, it does become difficult to promote one group over another. The report is more sensitive to this than headlines today have sometimes suggested.

So perhaps this just relates to a headline about something the report didn't say.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Sun, 06/09/2015 - 14:14

Once again agov is identifying the key issues. I have consistently argued here, on my website and in my book that all pupils of all abilities have an equal right to their school's resources in relation to access to teaching and learning programmes and systems that appropriately address their developmental needs. Providing this should be the primary objective of all schools. It is what comprehensive education means. This obviously has to include pupils at all developmental levels including those at the highest levels.

I think much of this stuff about 'praise' and 'elitism' is misguided.

The reason why all is not well is obvious. It is down to the very high stakes perverse incentives that result in schools concentrating resources on maximising C grade GCSE passes. This results in a double whammy.

1. The most cost effective short term approaches are behaviourist cramming and teaching to the test. This means that even the pupils that get more than their fair share of the school's resources will still suffer from stunted development (along with various other forms of alienation).

2. Those pupils whose developmental levels are too far above or below the 'target zone' to be relevant to the key performance thresholds will not get the attention they are entitled to.

It is no good OfSTED or anyone else blaming heads and teachers. The system is perniciously unforgiving of deviations from 'expected performance' of pupils and schools with statistically invalid data used to make judgements, as has been pointed out repeatedly on this site.

Marketisation is depressing standards generally and the issues being debated here related to the more able are just another example.

Add new comment

Already a member? Click here to log in before you comment. Or register with us.