Prime Minister David Cameron said on Saturday he would make competitive sport the core of a new national curriculum, seeking to counter fears that faltering schools sports provision will wreck the legacy of Britain's record Olympics medals haul.
The British team have surpassed expectations at the 2012 Games with a winning performance that has won 26 gold medals and put the hosts third in the medals table going into the final weekend.
Hopes that the exceptional results will spur a resurgence of sporting participation in Britain have been thrown into doubt, however, by government data showing that only two in five primary-level pupils (aged six to 11) regularly take part in competitive sport at state-funded schools.
Cameron said planned changes to the obligatory curriculum would include a requirement to provide competitive sport.
"I want to use the example of competitive sport at the Olympics to lead a revival of competitive sport in primary schools," he said in a statement.
"We need to end the 'all must have prizes' culture and get children playing and enjoying competitive sports from a young age, linking them up with sports clubs so they can pursue their dreams."
Cameron angered teaching unions this week by saying the poor take-up of sport by pupils was partly due to teachers who did not want to "join in and play their part".
The Association of School and College Leaders, a teaching union, said Cameron's criticisms were "ill-informed and unfair".
The scale of the challenge in the state-funded education system, which educates the vast majority of pupils, is revealed by statistics showing that privately-schooled athletes accounted for more than half of British medals at the 2008 Beijing Games.
Critics say Cameron's message is undermined by his government's cutting of school sports budgets and the removal of a requirement from the previous Labour administration for all pupils to have at least two hours of physical education a week.
In response Cameron has said targets and quotas would not make children more active, noting that his government planned to spend more than 1 billion pounds ($1.6 billion) over five years on youth sport, upgrading local sports venues and developing links between sports clubs and schools.
- Sports & Recreation