Ruth Kelly – 2006 Speech on Sports Colleges

Below is the text of the speech made by the then Secretary of State for Education and Skills, Ruth Kelly, on Sports Colleges. The speech was made on 3rd February 2006 in Telford.

Thank you for inviting me to address your conference.  I am really delighted to have been able to make it this year!

Your conference – the Sports College movement – is nothing less than inspiring.  You are a community of schools: determined to move forward; determined to push the boundaries; and determined to strive for excellence.

I want to acknowledge today, and pay tribute to, the contribution that Sports Colleges are making.  You are using physical education and sport to drive up whole school standards, improve attendance and behaviour and, of course, play a significant and valued role within our national school sport strategy.  A lot is asked of you.  And you continue to rise to that challenge.

You have proved – time and again – that you are a dynamic movement, capable of changing as priorities alter, but your focus – your driving force – is a desire to bring out the potential of every child.  That is an ambition we share.

Indeed, it is at the heart of your conference’s theme – ‘Every Child Matters’.  For me – and I know for you – it is about giving every child the best opportunities and ensuring the highest standards, irrespective of where they live and the nature of their backgrounds.

And that ambition is also at the heart of our White Paper – Higher Standards, Better Schools for All. In it we set out our vision for the next phase of reform – a vision of strong, self-confident schools working collaboratively and in partnership with other organisations to raise standards and improve opportunities for children. As Sports Colleges you have a strong history of working with external partners and I want to explore with you, today, how we can take that even further.

But first of all, I want to take a moment to look at the considerable achievements of the Sports College movement.  In particular, I want to offer my congratulations to the 14 schools whose successful designation for Sports College status was announced earlier this week.  I know that you are all represented here today.  The application process is tough and rightly so.  You can all feel justly proud of your success.  Very many congratulations – you have joined a winning team.

In 2005 Sports Colleges achieved their best ever exam results.  That is a credit: to your movement; to those working in your schools; and to the young people you serve.  Overall, Sports Colleges out performed non-specialist schools by almost 3 percentage points.  And 2005 value added data suggests that Sports Colleges add considerable value between Key Stages 2 and 4 – you will know this already.  It shows that, on average, pupils in Sports Colleges achieved one grade more in a GCSE subject than pupils with similar prior attainments in all schools.

Your successes are many, but there is, of course, more to be done.  I would like to see the gap between your results and the national average narrow even further.  I understand and accept the challenges many of your schools face.  Often your journey has been further, and the rate of improvement faster, than any other type of specialist school.

Together, we must deepen the impact of the sports specialism and ensure an even greater focus on the basics of English and maths.  Excellence in sport should translate into excellence throughout the school, especially in these vital subjects.  Of course, there are already some outstanding achievements at GCSE among sports colleges:

– Madeley Court School, here in Telford, achieved a huge 33 percentage points improvement on its GCSE results since last year;

– And Brookfield Community School in Derbyshire achieved an excellent 19 percentage point’s improvement over the previous year when English and maths are included in the indicator.

Of course your success isn’t just about sporting or educational excellence.  You’re also using your sport specialism to develop citizenship and leadership and prepare your young people for the many challenges of adult life.  Sport – through its rules and tactics – helps instil discipline and a sense of what is right and wrong.  That has a major impact on behaviour and I am sure there is much that other schools could learn from your approach.

I also want to recognise the leading role that Sports Colleges are playing within the national school sport strategy.  A lot has been achieved in the three years since the strategy was launched.

– Overall 69% of pupils in partnership schools – that’s 11% more than last year –  are spending at least 2 hours in a typical week on high quality PE and sport;

– The biggest gains have been across the primary sector where take up has risen by 23% – in just one year – to 64%;

– and while progress across the secondary sector has been more modest, it has reached the 75% target a whole year early.

Participation in club sport, competitive school sport and sports volunteering and leadership are all increasing, year on year.  Our investment of £11.5 million over two years will ensure that all partnerships can employ high quality coaches to widen after-school activities even further.

2006 will be a critical year for the national school sport strategy.  The first milestone within our Public Service Agreement target falls this year.  It is essential that we press on and ensure that at least 75% of school children spend a minimum of 2 hours each week on high quality physical education and sport.

In the longer term, we should, and can, be even more ambitious.  That’s why we want to work with you to offer all children at least 4 hours of sport a week by 2010.  This will include the 2 hours of high quality provision at school.  But it will also include 2-3 hours outside of curriculum time, to be delivered by a range of school, community and club providers.

So, with improving results, together with your contribution to the wider sports strategy, you are showing that you are ahead of the game, demonstrating what can be achieved, and just what Sports Colleges are capable of.

And Sports Colleges are, I believe, showing too just what can be achieved when schools work in partnership with each other and with other organisations to raise standards. Of course, as Specialist Sports Colleges you all already have relationships with external partners or sponsors but many of you are taking these relationships a step further. I have been delighted to hear about the range of innovative partnerships you have been involved in with all sorts of partners – from Universities to businesses to leading sporting organisations – harnessing expertise and energy and turning it to the task of raising standards with considerable success.

I wanted to share just a few of the interesting examples I have heard about:

– Biddick School in Washington – the first school nationally to receive support from the Lawn Tennis Association in its bid to become a Sports College. Since 1997 the school has extended its relationship with the LTA to the benefit of students at the school and the wider community.

And to quote an example of successful collaboration with business:

– Holloway School in London has been working with the Microsoft Foundation and Arsenal. The school receives IT support, training and software from the Foundation.  Indeed, a number of Sports Colleges where IT was a key feature of their bid have been supported by the Microsoft Foundation in this way.

There are also excellent examples of Sports Colleges working collaboratively with higher education institutions:

– Hayesbrook Sports College – also a recently designated high performing & training school – has an innovative partnership with Brighton University.  They deliver modules for their teacher trainees (over 70 a year) at Hayesbrook School, with placements in all the West Kent Learning Federation schools. Recruitment of newly qualified teachers from Brighton to schools in the Federation has increased significantly.

A number of schools have gone even further and have sponsors involved directly in the governing bodies of their schools – that brings invaluable business expertise and leadership directly into the running of these schools.

– For example, HSBC Education Trust have part sponsored 16 Sports Colleges and a feature of the partnership between school and sponsor is that HSBC Education Trust provides a sponsor governor  – the  school benefits from business expertise and the sponsor inputs to the development of the school as a Sports College.

Our White Paper will build on this excellent work and spread it wider into the education system.   Our task – and one which we all share – is to raise standards for every pupil, and particularly for disadvantaged groups.  That is the purpose of the White Paper.  At its heart is the premise that strong, self-confident schools with greater freedoms and the ability to harness the expertise and energy of external partners will provide the framework to create the next step change in standards.

And I think we all agree that a step change is needed. We want all children to have the best opportunities and the highest standards. Standards in schools have risen enormously, and children and young people are achieving more. But we cannot be satisfied that 56% of children get 5 good GCSEs or the equivalent, especially when only 26% of children on free meals do so. And there is too much variation in schools – all children deserve good schools.

I know there has been a lot of debate recently about the White Paper, particularly in relation to Trust schools, so I want to spend a few minutes clarifying some of what it is putting forward.

Trust Schools are a key element of the White Paper proposals and one that I hope all schools will consider very seriously.  As we’ve just explored, through your specialist status and your leadership of school sport partnerships, you have a proven record of working with external partners and other schools to benefit young people.  Trust status will allow you to build on this further.

Acquiring a Trust is a way for schools to raise standards, strengthen collaboration and draw on the expertise and energy of their partners – including universities, colleges, business foundations, other schools and the wider community. We know from your experience and that of other specialist schools that the external perspective has a real impact on pupils’ achievement.

For the school I saw last week – Thorpe Bay in Southend – acquiring a Trust and working with external partners gives it the best chance it has had for years.  That’s a single school model.  But many schools might want partnerships with other schools in a Trust.  What is more important than the model is that there is a renewed energy, a shared ethos and support for the school leadership.

Trusts build on the experience of the 75% of secondary schools that are now specialist, Voluntary Aided, Voluntary Controlled, or schools which have joined federations and experimented with new approaches to governance.  But they go further, because the Trust can appoint the majority of governors, if the school so agrees, and have even greater support from the school leadership team.

And Trusts bring extra stability to relationships – putting existing partnerships on an even securer footing; broadening partnerships and spreading influence.

There has been much ill informed comment about Trust schools though, and I want to take this opportunity to put to bed some of the myths:

– No school will be forced to set up a Trust;

– Trust schools will remain part of the maintained sector and part of the local family of schools;

– They will operate under the same local fair funding system as other schools;

– They will remain a full part of our capital spending programmes.

– And Trust schools will work under exactly the same code of fair admission as other schools.  There will be no new selection by ability. They will also take part in the local admissions forum. I believe that admission forums have a key role to play in making sure that every child has the chance of a school place at a good school. And they will be an important influence in promoting admission arrangements that reduce social segregation and making sure that schools are discouraged from using any practices which could result in some parents being put off from applying for them – such as expensive uniforms or requesting a financial contribution.

I would argue that Trusts are the natural extension of what so many sports colleges have been seeking to do. You already have a proven track record of successful delivery.  And you have always been prepared to tackle new challenges and explore new ways of working in your quest for improvement.

The Trust School Prospectus – published earlier this year – sets out the potential of what they can achieve for pupils.  Copies of the prospectus are available at the national school sport strategy zone, here at the conference. Do, please, look closely at the Trust School Prospectus and consider how Trust school status can help you to improve things even further for all at your school.

I’m almost out of time but before I finish I want to say quick word about the Olympics. Lord Coe will be taking the stage after me and I know we all share his vision of the Olympic Games providing inspiration to all our young people. We were all delighted by the success of London’s bid to stage the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.  It was amazing how the country got behind the bid and rejoiced in London’s success.

The Sports College movement has helped breath life back into competitive school sport.  Through the work you lead in the network of school sport partnerships we have seen the amount and quality of inter school competition rise year on year.

All children have the chance to participate in competitive sport through the National Curriculum.  Not only traditional sports like football and hockey, but less common disciplines for this country like handball or volleyball which can help inspire more youngsters to take up competitive sport regularly.  I know partnerships schools in Nottinghamshire have set up five new leagues which have enabled thousands more youngsters to play competitively.  Through these leagues they are learning valuable life skills – teamwork, leadership – how to win with grace and lose with dignity.

Our new competition managers will help to widen access to competitive sport even further.  I know Dame Kelly Holmes was with you last night.  I am delighted that she has agreed to be our first national school sport champion.  As one of our best ever women Olympians she will be a powerful role model to help inspire and motivate our young people to take up sport or do even more of it.

Sports Colleges are well positioned to help us ensure a lasting legacy.  The link between the Games and sport is an obvious one.  But we want to use the Games to inspire young people in other ways as well.  So, together with LOCOG (London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games) and others, we will be:

– encouraging young people to make healthy living choices more generally;

– supporting learning both in and outside the classroom;

– increasing the number of people learning languages; and

– broadening young people’s personal development and cultural understanding.

Last year also saw the announcement that every School Sport Partnership will be able to appoint two Youth Ambassadors to act as community champions for the games.  This will be a great opportunity for them.  And in the run-up to the games we are establishing a national school sport festival to showcase sporting competition and talent.

These are exciting times.  Sports Colleges have demonstrated time and again the ability, desire and passion to innovate and drive up standards.  The national school sport strategy, specialist status and our White Paper proposals allow us to move to the next level.

There are genuinely tough challenges to be faced. I know that last term was particularly difficult for many heads and teachers in terms of implementing new policy.  The issues were well articulated to me by a group of Sports College heads I lunched with just before Christmas.  But the reforms are essential if we are to transform the life chances of every child in every school.

I know you will, again, rise to the challenge. Thank you.