Union joins NASUWT in condemning Michael Gove’s decision to approve the sale of 21 playing fields

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Another teaching union has added its voice to growing condemnation of a decision by Coalition ministers to sell off more than 20 school playing fields.

As the 2012 Olympics draw to a close, Nansi Ellis, head of education policy at the ATL, said: “It seems that David Cameron has forgotten that the ethos of the Olympics is about taking part and doing your best. 

“Schools and teachers would love to have the curriculum time and facilities to teach a range of sports that will appeal to sporty pupils as well as non-sporty so that they can keep fit, enjoy sports, learn the importance of taking part, being a good team player, of persevering, the determination to win, and being competitive. 

“But instead of helping, this government has sold off playing fields, cut funding for the Schools Sports Partnership, and removed the requirement to teach a minimum amount of PE while increasing the pressure to focus on subjects that will score well in league tables. “

NASUWT and the GMB had already condemned Michael Gove’s decision to approve the sale of 21 school playing fields, despite earlier pledges to protect them.

NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said: “It comes as no surprise that another valuable public asset is being sold off by this government. Asset stripping is taking place everyday as the government hands over valuable public land and buildings to the privateers who want to run academies and other parts of public services.

“It was the last Conservative government that began selling off school playing fields.  This is just history repeating itself with another government that knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

GMB officer Gary Doolan questioned what message Michael Gove’s decision sent out to parents and pupils.

“The sale of 21 playing fields is not the way to develop tomorrow’s young Olympians. The legacy of the Olympics and the need to ‘Inspire a generation’ will be short lived if the facilities that tomorrows generation depend on are sold to the highest bidder or developer.

“Lord Sebastian Coe was adamant that we need to continue to invest in sports so as to carry on the fantastic work of the London Olympic Games. The proposed sell off of this educational land is no more than a smack in the face not only Lord Coe’s statement, but the future generation of Britain’s Olympians.”

The GMB has campaigned to stop the sale of five acres at Elliot School playing fields in Putney which Wandsworth Tories want to use to pay for refurbishment of the school.

On the sale of the playing fields the law is that such sales can only be as a last resort when funding is required. This is not the case as Wandsworth Council have nearly £200 million in reserves and has found £30m to buy sites for free schools in the borough.

Gary Doolan said: “These five acres are in an area of the borough where the average household income is less than 2/3rds of the London average. The council was well aware in 2010 that Elliot needed investment when a £40.3 million refurbishment was cancelled by the newly elected government.

“Yet a few months after that the council spent £13m million from reserves to buy the site in Battersea for a new school in an area where the household income are nearly double the London average. With decisions like this the public schools will continue to supply the Olympians”.


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