For once, Gary Lineker is off target

Gary Lineker: Private schools are ‘entirely selfish’ if they don’t open fields to state-educated children

At the weekend Gary Lineker called for independent schools to share their sports facilities and went on to claim that this would save the NHS money by tackling obesity. He said ‘we are getting fatter because it is very easy for kids to sit on their backsides, whether they’re using smartphones or PlayStations.’ This is absolutely true, but it is naive to claim that making independent schools’ facilities more widely available is the answer.

I am the headmistress of a girls’ independent school, the mother of three children (15, 13, 10) two of whom attend state schools, and I coach Year 4 – Year 8 children at my local athletics club. I can tell you that access to facilities does not, in itself, convince children to play sport.
Children play sport when the school they attend emphasises its importance and creates opportunities for all pupils to find an activity that they enjoy.

There is simply not enough time set aside for sport in the typical state school curriculum. In my opinion, children need to be playing sport most days in order to develop a life-long exercise habit. Independent schools are often perfectly happy to share their facilities, but it can be impractical for other schools to make use of them because of the costs and time involved in transporting the children.

If the government really wanted to encourage children to develop an exercise habit it would fund more PE specialists in schools and it would demand that schools allocate more curriculum time to sport quite possibly by lengthening the school day, which incidentally would make life easier for families in which both parents work. But why take the responsibility for adopting a strategy that might actually prove effective when it is so much easier and cheaper to blame others?


Jane Gandee, Headmistress, St Swithun’s School

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