Karl McCartney is the Member of Parliament for Lincoln. Follow Karl on Twitter.
The former Chairman of the British Olympic Association, Lord Moynihan, recently sought to initiate a debate about the background and education of our medal winners in the 2012 London Olympics. However his suggestion that the current situation is “wholly unacceptable” fails to take into account the diverse make up of all Team GB members or indeed some of the steps that this Government is taking to increase an active presence of sport in all levels of schools.
We do not need to look too far to find gold-medal winning athletes who have been fully state-educated. Athleticism is a state of mind and application and needs to be nurtured by family, friends, and our teachers at whichever schools we are learning at. Take for example Jessica Ennis, who has become the poster girl for Team GB and was raised in Sheffield, attending a local comprehensive school (King Ecgbert School). Alternatively, consider Bradley Wiggins who also attended a state secondary school, he became the first British winner of the Tour de France and went on to win a gold medal at the Olympics in 2012 and is, it seems, an extremely well grounded, sensible and witty individual with a keen sense of fun. Indeed, when you consider that 70% of our gold medallists attended a state secondary school, it becomes difficult to accept at all Lord Moynihan's, and those of his ilk's, divisive politicised comments.
Whilst I accept that privately educated athletes were disproportionately represented in winning medals at the Olympics for Team GB, what is the problem in that? Their parents were most probably competitive, as their offspring themselves have been to reach where they are now - competition does not seem to have harmed them. Perhaps they have also made sacrifices financially or otherwise for their children to have better education, chances and hence opportunities, be they academic or athletic. Indeed, if you take a look at some of the newspaper publications which featured headlines supporting Lord Moynihan’s comments - you might be surprised at how many of these journalists went to public schools or enjoyed private education themselves, whether through a fully paid for route, the assisted places scheme or its replacements, bursaries, scholarships or the like.