HC Deb 03 May 1994 vol 242 cc584-5
12. Lady Olga Maitland

To ask the Secretary of State for Education what plans he has to increase the provision of team and individual sports in schools.

18. Mr. Barry Jones

To ask the Secretary of State for Education what is his policy concerning competitive sports in schools.

Mr. Robin Squire

Competitive sports are an important part of a balanced physical education curriculum. With the PE national curriculum, for the first time, games are mandatory for all pupils aged five to 14, and an option for those aged 14 to 16. We shall be looking to strengthen further the position of sports in schools as part of the current review of the national curriculum.

Lady Olga Maitland

I thank my hon. Friend for his commitment to sport in schools. Is he aware that the decline of sport in our schools is largely due to teachers who regard sport, in the competitive sense, as elitist and demeaning to pupils? Does he agree that children benefit from competitive sport in learning the skills of leadership, discipline and loyalty?

Mr. Squire

I agree with my hon. Friend. I am sure that she, too, will agree that one of the reasons for the introduction of the PE national curriculum was the need to tackle the anti-competitive ethos that grew up during the 1970s. She may be interested to learn that, according to evidence from the Office for Standards in Education, games continue to dominate that curriculum: more than half the PE lessons in secondary schools last year were games lessons.

Mr. Barry Jones

Can the Minister remember the days when he used to play cricket and rugby union, which are now losing out under his Government? May we please have more cash for more teachers and more competitive sport?

Mr. Squire

I am shocked that the hon. Gentleman should overlook the fact that we currently lead the world with our women's cricket and rugby teams. He has written off half the population: I am very worried about that.

Mr. Pawsey

Does my hon. Friend accept that one of the best ways of improving sport in schools is to improve teacher training? Does he agree that one of the best ways of doing that is to ensure that student teachers spend more time training in the classroom? In short, should we not adopt the sort of measures that our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will introduce later this afternoon?

Mr. Squire

My hon. Friend, with his wide knowledge of education matters, has it exactly right. School-centred initial teacher training will be an important arm in raising the quality of teaching in our schools.

Mr. O'Hara

Does the Minister recognise, however, that the decline in school sports has a great deal to do with successive Government policies—starting with the imposition of the 1,265-hour contract, and continuing through the imposition of an over-burdened and discredited national curriculum and the selling of school playing fields?

Mr. Squire

I disagree. I think that the causes are many, but that the heart of the problem lies in teaching attitudes and a curriculum that we look forward to strengthening.

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