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School sport
Feb/March 2012


The Year of School Sport

How will the sports industry benefit from school sport becoming compulsory from February this year? TRUDI DU TOIT looks at the possibilities

Will 2012 be the year that the plan for school sport finally comes together? In November last year an ambitious plan to ensure that all SA schools offer physical education and competitive sport was launched and from February this year, sport and physical education became compulsory in all our schools

What are the implications for the sports industry?

The most immediate implication is that members of the public — and that includes members of the industry — have until the end of March 2012 to comment on the School Sport Policy draft gazetted by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) on 9 December 2011.

The biggest concern for industry members would, no doubt, be the supply of equipment and sportswear to schools. While there have been numerous memorandums and agreements and draft documents, there have not been any clear guidelines on the who, what and where of equipment supplies.

Benefits for industry

It does, however, seem that if you have been a supplier to former Model C and other schools that have been buying sports equipment with their own funds, it will be business as usual.

The biggest impact of the compulsory school sport policy will be on suppliers to under-resourced schools who have in the past relied on government grants, or offered no sport. Apart from a tender issued by the department of Sport and Recreation SA (SRSA) at the end of last year asking for a supplier of equipment for school sport, as well as some provincial tenders, we have been unable to establish exactly how the distribution channels will work.

In June last year, Rohini Naidoo, SRSA director of school sport, told the parliamentary committee on sport: “Previously there were around 4 000 schools, largely in rural areas, which had access to that grant. SRSA would ensure all schools had access to the grant through the federation activities of capacity building and training — working together with DBE with a more coherent approach.”

SRSA appears to be very serious about providing back-up for school sport: 40% of their national budget is allocated towards schools sport and the Minister of Sport and Recreation told the Sports Indaba at the end of last year that he was going to request the Lotto to make funds available to fund equipment, facilities and educator training for school sport.

He also suggested that a portion of the municipal infrastructure grant (MIG) be earmarked for spending on sports facilities in disadvantaged communities. While municipalities are supposed to deliver sporting facilities, not much goes towards sport in municipal budgets that barely cover basic services like water, electricity, refuse removal, sanitation and transport.

But, it is too early to say how sports equipment and sportswear suppliers could benefit directly from the new policy — except the lucky winners of the government and provincial tenders and their sub-contractors.

Long term benefits

The whole industry would, however, benefit in the long run. It’s common sense: the millions of children who have never participated in physical activity … opening a whole new future customer base.

While the poorer schools may now rely on donated equipment, some of the children will retain their love of sport and in future, once they leave school, buy their own gear.

A 2005 report commissioned by SRSA, Participation Patterns in Sport and Recreation Activities in South Africa, showed that only 25% of the more than 6 000 adult respondents participated in some form of sport or recreational activity. Those who did enjoy sport said the biggest motivator to engage in sport was “sports experiences while at school”.

In the SRSA report A Case for Sport and Recreation, statistics from BMI Sportsinfo indicated that in 2007 an estimated 8.1-m youths aged 13-18 years participated in sport. But, that figure included double counting and if each participant took part in two sports, there would only have been an estimated 4.1-m high school age youths who participated in sport. At that stage there were more than 18-m children under the age of 18 in SA. Which shows the vast potential of new recruits to sport through the compulsory school sport policy.

The old system

Some readers might remember that the introduction of sport in schools was a hot topic about seven years ago when the Ministers of Education and Sport and Recreation signed a Framework for Collaboration to coordinate the delivery of school sport. The plan was that the Department of Education (DoE) would oversee physical education and mass participation in schools while SRSA would oversee competitive sport and high performance activities.

The two departments and a National Coordinating Committee (NACOC) for school sport were supposed to take over the responsibilities of USSASA, the body that used to be responsible for school sport.

While the (mainly former Model C) schools with a long tradition of sport had been fairly happy with the way USSASA ran leagues, there was no incentive for under-resourced schools to offer sport, and those who wanted to join in, encountered several difficulties. For example, the affiliation fee was based on the number of learners and many disadvantaged schools, with high learner numbers, could not afford this. Learners also had to pay to participate in activities and there was a lack of coordination of activities; there were internal administrative conflicts and lack of communication between USSASA and federations.

The result was that USSASA was disbanded and government took charge. This, however, did not lead to a massive growth of sport participation amongst schools that formerly didn’t offer sport … while the traditional sport schools complained that “standards were deteriorating”.

There were numerous reasons for the failure of the 2005 plan. One of them was that there were no clear cut boundaries between the roles of the educators and the sport assistants (volunteers who received a mere stipend) employed by SRSA to help introduce sport at disadvantaged schools.

Many educators were not interested in coaching sport and considered that to be the domain of the volunteer coaches, while the volunteers found that instead of coaching a soccer team for an hour a week, they were expected to organise equipment, make arrangements for games and league participation and organise transport. As can be imagined, there was lots of conflict between volunteers and educators.

Because the educators were employed by DBE, there was no way that SRSA could force them to take responsibility for sports activities, nor did provincial sports departments force them to offer sport or physical education. Many followed the way of least resistance and did nothing. Many educators sent for further training as coaches or officials did so under duress — and were not over keen to display their newly-gained knowledge.

The supply of equipment was also a problem as under-resourced schools tried to stretch the grants as far as possible — for example, buying one set of soccer jerseys for all the teams to share. The youngest age groups, who played first, had the benefit of clean, dry kit … by the time the first team members had to try them on they were wet and smelly.

Due to personality clashes an unwieldy NACOC, the body that was supposed to oversee the process, was ineffective. The plan flopped.

What’s different now?

This time school sport is serious business and the backbone of the new sports plan. In November 2011 the Minister of Basic Education (Angie Motshega) and SRSA (Fikile Mbalula) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on an Integrated School Sport Framework. The underlying principle is that ALL learners in ALL schools must have access to school sport — no arguing, finish en klaar.

Apart from physical education becoming part of the curriculum — with the number of hours per week stipulated — each school must allocate time for participation in school sport during, or after, formal school hours. The physical education can also be relevant games, including indigenous games, and games that promote mass participation. But, learners will also be encouraged to take part in at least one sport (preferably two) per quarter in a new school sport league system with weekly competitions.

In the beginning of this school year the DBE and SRSA sent a letter to schools urging them to register for inter-school leagues in the following priority codes: athletics, basketball, chess, cricket, football (soccer), gymnastics, netball, rugby and volleyball.

All SASCOC sport codes would be recognised at school level and nothing will therefore be taken away from schools offering a wide variety of sports. Schools new to sport will be encouraged to select from five priority codes that already have good representation in schools: athletics, rugby, soccer, cricket and netball.

While the above will be the priority codes for 2012, the following additional sporting codes will be prioritised over the next five years: basketball, boxing, chess, handball, indigenous games, volleyball, softball, tennis, goal ball, gymnastics, hockey and swimming.

All schools will also be required to ensure that their learners are water safe.

School sport leagues may take place within a school, involving interclass or inter-house games, as well as interschool and selected teams taking part at district, regional, provincial, national and international tournaments.

SRSA will be responsible for talent spotting and development at all levels and for all international participation. They will also be responsible for organising the Youth Olympics, focusing on individual talented athletes identified by professional talent scouts, sport clubs and federations during the school leagues.

SRSA will organise a National School Sport Festival in December 2012.

This school sport calendar will be supported by continuous training and development programmes for teachers. SASCOC is working with national federations on the first rollout of the SA Coaching Framework, through which educators will be trained as coaches — this time teachers will have an incentive to undergo the further education as they will be credited by the DBE.

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