Central Wollongong Primary Schools Athletics Carnival. Tate Harland Yr3 of Lindsay Park primary school in the boys high jump. Photo: David Tease
Sport will not be included as a mandatory element when the new national school curriculum for health and physical education is introduced in 2014.
Instead, as a nation seeks ways to repair its dented sporting pride, the question of whether to include compulsory sport within each school week will be left entirely to state education departments and private school systems.
Australia's Olympic chief John Coates has blamed the federal government's failure to make sport compulsory as one of the reasons behind a disappointing Olympic campaign.
Sport is compulsory in virtually every NSW school, including the entire public system, prompting Premier Barry O'Farrell to tell those wishing to turn fingers at NSW schools to point somewhere else.
But Steve Georgakis, a lecturer in the Faculty of Education at the University of Sydney and the author of Youth Sport in Australia, says a bad situation is set to get worse with a national curriculum.
Even mandated sport in NSW schools had been ''completely residualised'', he said. ''It's there because it's a bludge for many teachers and also for many students as well. It's a way of filling in an afternoon of school time. They may as well not be there at all but in 2014 it's going to be a lot worse,'' Dr Georgakis predicted.
But, when it comes to watching television, it seems Australian children are up there with the best, with a new study finding up to half of Australian children watch more than the recommended maximum of two hours' television each day. Growing up in Australia, a longitudinal study of Australian children, found 46 per cent of six-year-olds watch more than two hours' TV each weekday. On weekends, the figure rises to 52 per cent. One-third of eight-year-olds watch three hours' of daily TV on weekends.
Professor Jo Salmon of Deakin University's school of exercise and nutrition sciences said evidence showed that children who watched a lot of TV were likely to be less physically active.
Dr Georgakis said Australia needed a system that supported grass roots sport. ''We need to institutionalise and value sport in the education system, promote a mass sport model for all and then you can identify gifted and talented students and give them a pathway in which they can excel,'' he said.
Two leading principals say sporting bodies need to lift their games when it comes to schools.
''I'm always amazed the state and national bodies aren't coming into our schools and seeing what we are doing. I would have thought that would be a priority for them,'' the principal of Westfields Sports High School, Roger Davis, said.
''They should be coming into the schools, especially the sports selective high schools, and telling us 'this is the direction we are going, this is the way we want your coaches to be coaching'.''
Riverview headmaster and the chairman of the Greater Public Schools Headmasters Association, Shane Hogan, agreed. ''No one is talking to us at all,'' he said. ''Unless we seek them out - and pay them - it's not going to happen.''