Sport, Education and Multiple Intelligences

It comes as no great surprise in a country whose perennial obsessions are sport, class, ethnicity, politics, money and education to find that a weekend of Olympics achievement should lead directly into a morass of debate and discussion about . . . sport, class, ethnicity, politics, money and education.

Take the Guardian’s lead editorial yesterday, under the heading Sport and Education.

The same message comes across again and again: if sports were truly integrated into the curriculum, if more schools had teaching staffs large and motivated enough, rich seams of educational benefit are there to be found in sport which lie across the curriculum – in numeracy, science, health education, learning ability, concentration, application, to take just a few. Slashing sports funding by 60% has a price. Even though it may be alleviated by the coalition government’s plan to divert the majority of Sport England’s budget into youth sport and a plan to link schools with clubs, that price is generally paid for by pupils, particularly in primary schools.

Everything MUST begin in Primary schools, where children form their first ideas of their capabilities and their potential – as well as whether they enjoy sport and physical activty.

These are the key questions:

How fit am I?
How strong?
How fast?
How far can I run?
How high can I jump?
How far can I throw?
What do I need to do in order to improve my fitness, my strength, my personal best?

I despair when I think of the meagre training that Primary teachers receive for “physical intelligence”. I despair when I think about the number of terrible sessions of ‘physical education’ I’ve witnessed – with children spending most of the session just standing around, not even properly warmed up, waiting for the teacher’s instructions, watching other children, waiting to use a piece of apparatus or equipment, bored, non-engaged, uninterested, switched off.

[We] won the Olympics on a promise to put sports at the heart of health and education policy. When he has finished basking in its reflected glory, David Cameron should honour that promise by declaring that sport is back at the heart of his education policy.

3Di can go along with that thought, as long as we replace the word “sport” with “physical intelligence” so that it also encompasses health, fitness and holistic wellbeing.

Moving on in the Guardian, we come across this article on page 21, by Jackie Ashley:

The work ethic, sacrifice and sense of belonging of our athletes should remind our leaders there is a different Britain

The Olympics is and always has been a highly political event, with political lessons to be drawn from it about success and failure – and about nationhood. Its nationalism harks back to the modern origins of the games. In 1896, the world wars were yet to come. Idealism and flag-waving went together; it seems trickier now.

[Athletes] are all living embodiments of deferred gratification, putting in the self-denial and hard work for the chance of glory. They’re the opposite of the gimme-now, look-at-me, celebrity B-list fame academy set we keep being told epitomises modern Britain. It’s really a story of graft, and of group loyalty.

The graft can’t happen without the team, the trainers, the leadership and the camaraderie. Almost every athlete I’ve heard or watched reflecting says so. That isn’t individualism; it’s the opposite. And if we take those two things –the hard work, and the importance of group loyalty and sacrifice (including all the fine athletes who give up medal chances of their own to partner, pace or protect), then we have the glimpse of a different Britain.

The American sociologist Robert Putnam famously argued in his book Bowling Alone that by shunning clubs, unions and group activities of all kinds in favour of a selfish individualism, westerners were impoverishing their societies and their lives. If Britain’s remarkable per-capita success at these Games teaches us anything, it’s that when we bowl together, we bowl better.

In other words, we need to understand how much individual success is made possible by the social – and what 3Di calls social intelligence.

Yet again we see in Olympic success the importance of engaging and using each of our multiple intelligences.

Personal intelligence affords us self-knowledge and an understanding of our strengths and weaknesses, our present capabilities and our future potential.

Social intelligence enables us to relate to others, to cooperate, to collaborate, to empathise, to support and to engage with.

Physical intelligence is the development of our bodies and our senses – our levels of strength, fitness, balance, resistance to disease and recovery from illness.

Instinctual intelligence is the enhancement of our reactions, our automatic functioning and our response to stimulae.

Spiritual intelligence guides us in our overall purposes, our values, our virtues and our goals in life.

Intellect enables us to analyse, critique, hypothesise and draw conclusions.

Olympic champions need to draw on all of their intelligences in order to become the very best they can be. The rest of us need the same intelligences to function well, in order to succeed in our own aims and ambitions.

Schools need to deliberately develop all of these six intelligences to their fullest extent in order to provide the best possible education. Academic excellence and attainment in examinations alone is not sufficient.


Ennis, Farah, Murray: here ends the state school myth

This weekend should silence all the talk that only the independent sector can produce top-class athletes

by John Harris

Might it be the case that a state education fosters grit, fire and aspiration that the independent sector can get nowhere near?

Say it loud: comprehensives are the proven schools of champions, something that amounts to a whole Olympic legacy in itself.

There’s lots of comment in the press about the proportion of GB athletes taking part in these London games who attended fee-paying schools. The simple fact is that young people whose parents can afford to send them to fee-paying schools enjoy access to better facilities, better equipment, expert coaching, etc.

In other words, wealth buys privilege, and it’s no great surprise that you have a far better chance of being successful in your chosen field if your parents are wealthy and can afford to invest in special tuition and coaching.


From the BBC website:

School sports provision is “patchy” and ministers want to boost participation on the back of Team GB’s Olympic success, the culture secretary says.

Jeremy Hunt said ministers wanted to ensure the “best examples are spread throughout the country” and have backed an Olympic-style event for schools.

His comments come after the British Olympic Association (BOA) called for a “step change” in sports policy.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Mr Hunt, said “primary schools is where it all starts and catching people young is incredibly important” but he accepted pupils faced “an element of luck”, for example in terms of having an inspirational teacher.

Or in terms of attending a school that has an enlightened and coherent approach to holistic education that focuses on developing all of each child’s intelligences.


London 2012 Olympics ‘should prompt wholesale rethink of UK sport policy’

by Owen Gibson, Olympics editor

Sir Keith Mills, chief executive of London’s bid to host the Olympics and now deputy chair of the organising committee, has called on the government to use London 2012 as the springboard for a wholesale rethink of its sports strategy.

John Steele, the chief executive of the Youth Sport Trust, said: “We’ll have one shot at scoping and delivering the legacy from these Games. We need a focus on primary schools. Facilities are important, but they’re secondary. What this is about is people.

About 3D Eye

Gary Foskett and Clare Blackhall are educationalists, writers and consultants. We work with schools and other organisations who share our vision of how schools, businesses, etc should work in the 21st Century. We also run courses and contribute to conferences - speaking about our three dimensional model of intelligences and how schools, colleges and universities can develop the full potential of all their staff and students. We also offer consultancy for businesses and public sector organisations to support staff training and organisational change and development. For more detailed information read our blog at or see our website at
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