Michael Gove slammed for punishing children with sport

Thousands of people have signed a petition against Michael Gove's decision to punish children with exercise, after leading athletes, head teachers and even Conservative supporters spoke out against the plans.

Over 8,000 people have signed a petition set up by former head of Conservative Future Gavin Megaw calling on the education secretary to remove guidance that lists "extra physical activity such as running around a playing field" as a recommended punishment.

"As a father, school governor and keen runner, I was shocked to find out about this guidance suggesting an outdated form of punishment," Megaw wrote.

"It sends the wrong message that physical activity, in particular running, is a negative action and not something to enjoy rather than something that ensures a healthy mind and body."

The campaign to scrap the recommendation has been backed by leading sportspeople including marathon runner Paula Radcliffe.

Radcliffe has slammed the guidance as "totally ridiculous" and promoted the petition to her fans.

Triathlon champion Chrissie Wellington said the punishments would teach a generation of children to "loathe" sport.

"Using physical activity as a punishment is outdated and inappropriate," she wrote on her website.

"It will entrench lasting fear and loathing for sport amongst children and young people, running the risk that they will carry negative attitude to physical activity throughout their lives."

Head teachers have also attacked the plans.

"Our aim is to promote achievement and this is much more likely to happen when students enjoy their subject," Carrie Lynch, head teacher at designated sports college Great Baddow High School, told the Essex Chronicle.

"We want young people to value health and fitness throughout their lives so we certainly would not want them to perceive exercise as a punishment."

Former Conservative adviser Peter Franklin today urged the education secretary to scrap the recommendation.

"Resolution in the face of entrenched opposition to reform is something to be admired in ministers," he wrote in a piece for Conservative Home.

"But when mistakes are made, admitting to them and putting them right is a sign of strength not weakness."

Forced physical activity is one of ten new punishments recommended by the Department for Education, alongside making children pick up litter and write lines.

Announcing the list earlier this month, Gove urged teachers to "get tough" on pupils.

"Our message to teachers is clear – don't be afraid to get tough on bad behaviour and use these punishments," he said.