Dumbing down fears as rate of state school educated British athletes succeeding at Olympic Games reaches record levels
The education secretary, Michael Gove has demanded a toughening up of the grades required to excel at the Olympics after figures show record numbers of athletes who were educated at comprehensive schools are qualifying for medals – prompting fresh concern from right-wing MPs that Olympic events are being “dumbed down”.
Mr Gove said that while the excellent Olympic results will lead to joy for many people, the rising success rates of British athletes who are outside the old boys network have shown there are real fears that it may be getting easier for hard-up sports men and women to win things.
In his statement, which came after the publication of figures which showed a marked year-by-year improvement of Olympic grades for British athletes whose parents are not rich enough to educate them privately, the education secretary congratulated participants, parents and teachers, but said future reform of the Olympic grading system should ensure standards were not falling:
I am very aware of the public suspicion that there has been some dumbing down in certain aspects of the system for awarding medals at the Olympics to people who were educated in a state school.
Employers especially find it hard to understand how there can be a continuous rate of improvement every year in all the overall rates of success at the Olympics, when they are also finding it difficult to find staff who can run as fast as Mo Farah or ride a bicycle as well as Bradley Wiggins.
Recent Olympic results for 2012 showed that the number of UK candidates from state schools passing at gold grade has increased by 4.8 per-centage points and the number of non-Bullingdon Club members succeeding at silver grade has climbed to 80.1%, while the number of successful bronze grade candidates who haven’t been to Eton now stands at nearly 77% – a success rate many see as suspicious.
A Conservative Party backbencher explained his suspicions that standards may be dropping in order to create what he called a ‘prize for all’ culture in the UK:
It’s clear that when we see a ridiculous situation where people educated in state comprehensive schools such as Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah are winning medals, and are even beating people from public schools like Eton, something fishy must be afoot. It’s essential that this situation is not allowed to continue and that’s why we’ve decided to sell off all their playing schools in order to make sure it never happens again.
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