HC Deb 08 February 2001 vol 362 cc1060-1
5. Mr. Bob Russell (Colchester)

If he will publish league tables of the number of hours of physical education provided by each school within the curriculum timetable. [147907]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Employment(Jacqui Smith)

Ofsted collects information about the percentage of taught time for each subject when inspecting schools. In January, the Prime Minister announced an entitlement of two hours of physical education and sport, during and after school, for all children. We will consult and work with all interested parties on how that can best be achieved and monitored. Furthermore, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority will shortly produce guidance for schools on how to achieve two hours of physical education a week.

Mr. Russell

The Minister is obviously reluctant to give the figure, because she well knows that, at best, only 25 per cent. of children receive that amount of physical education within the school curriculum. Is it not about time that we stopped the unhealthy obsession with academic league tables, when the health education unit of Exeter university has produced evidence to show that regular exercise helps children to do better? Does the hon. Lady agree that there should be more physical education within the school curriculum? Does she agree with Sport England's view that it is important to revitalise school sport?

Jacqui Smith

The hon. Gentleman is wrong. All students receive physical education within the national curriculum from the age of five to the age of 16, but I agree that we need to do more to develop a good experience in sport for our young people. That is why the major investment in sport, pledged in September 2000, includes £750 million to improve and strengthen our sports facilities. It is why £130 million has already been allocated to local education authorities, which are planning proposals to provide facilities for sports and arts in our primary schools. It is why we are pledged to increase the number of sports colleges, such as Colne community school in the hon. Gentleman's constituency, to at least 150 by 2004. It is why we already have 143 school sports co-ordinators in place, with 660 primary link teachers. Yes, we need to do more to ensure that our children have the sporting opportunities that we all want them to have, which is why the Government are making such investment and why they will ensure that it is delivered.

Valerie Davey (Bristol, West)

The curriculum at key stage 2 includes an entitlement to swimming and an attainment at swimming. Will the Minister confirm that the Department will maintain that and ensure that it is monitored very carefully across all primary schools?

Jacqui Smith

My hon. Friend takes a close interest in ensuring that we have high levels of swimming tuition in our schools. As I told her during a recent Adjournment debate, we have set up an advisory group to find out how we can improve the already good standard of swimming teaching, especially for children at key stage 2; how we can ensure that swimming is included in the £750 million investment announced by the Prime Minister to improve facilities; and how we can ensure that the small number of children who do not gain the required standard by the end of key stage 2 are enabled to do so. I share my hon. Friend's wish to emphasise the importance of swimming. We will continue to work to ensure that swimming teaching is maintained and improved in all our primary schools.