HC Deb 26 February 2001 vol 363 cc577-9
14. Caroline Flint (Don Valley)

What plans he has to implement his policy of ensuring that all children take part in sport every week. [149400]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Chris Smith)

The teaching of physical education in the national curriculum is statutory at key stages 1 to 4—for ages five to 16. On 11 January 2001 we set out our intention to offer children an entitlement to two hours a week of high-quality sport and physical education both within and outside the school day. We will consult schools, professional associations and all other interested parties to identify how best to make this happen and how to monitor it.

Caroline Flint

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer, but I should like to raise two issues, the first of which is the sometimes erratic way in which schools organise inter-school tournaments. The organising of such fixtures is lacking, and Ofsted should look into that. My right hon. Friend should ensure that it is a condition of good Ofsted reports that inter-school competition is very much a feature of sport activity.

The second issue is transport, problems with which often prevent children from taking part in after-school or weekend activities. It is a disadvantage for schools if they have to raise money and use the bulk of their sports budget on transport.

Mr. Smith

My hon. Friend makes two extremely important and valid points. We are in discussion with Ofsted about inter-school competition. Children"s sport and sporting opportunities are key parts of their development. In many parts of the country, the provision of inter-school competition is not only erratic in far too many areas, it is non-existent. Under the stewardship of the Tory Government, there was a massive decline in inter-school sport. We are rectifying that, and the appointment of 1,000 school sports co-ordinators throughout the country to encourage and facilitate inter-school competitive sport is one of the ways in which we are doing so.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East)

It is nice that the Government believe in some degree of competitiveness in schools, albeit only on the non-academic side. The Secretary of State says that the Government intend that pupils should have up to two hours of sport a week, but it is not clear what part of that will be within the school working day. Will the right hon. Gentleman at least give an undertaking that 50 per cent. of that time will be within the school working day? Otherwise, was that not a typical meaningless Government announcement?

Mr. Smith

The hon. Gentleman is talking nonsense. We believe fundamentally that competitive sport is excellent for children. It teaches children a great deal about how to win and lose, how to live their lives and how to work in teams. It prepares them for citizenship. Competitive sport is good as a sports policy and as an education policy.

Provision should be in school, after school and at weekends; good-quality school sport has always been about that. We want to see sport covered in the in-school curriculum and in after-school work.

Gillian Merron (Lincoln)

Will my right hon. Friend commend the running of football in the community schemes for children? They are organised by clubs such as Lincoln City FC, which is to be congratulated on having become the first community owned and run football club in the country. Will he ensure that his Department and Supporters Direct, both of which have been extremely helpful in giving critical support to Lincoln City FC, put the involvement of children at the heart of their work in cementing the relationship between football and the community?

Mr. Smith

We warmly commend the work that Lincoln City has been doing in that respect. I congratulate the supporters trust, which has taken over the ownership of Lincoln City football club. I am pleased that we put Supporters Direct in place nearly a year ago. It has been working hard with supporters trusts around the country to assist groups of supporters in local areas to take a stake in the equity of their clubs. Lincoln City is an excellent example of that work coming to fruition. I commend the club and the policy of community ownership that that represents.

Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross)

I agree with the Secretary of State about the importance of out-of-hours opportunities for sport and for the arts. What discussions has he had with his colleagues and with teachers about possible bottlenecks resulting from the fact that teachers may not be eager to undertake such work without additional resources?

Mr. Smith

We have been in close discussion with the Department for Education and Employment and teachers. Because of the current difficulties facing teachers, we are putting in place school sports co-ordinators and extending the provisions of the new deal to enable sports assistants to be created in schools. We realise that teachers cannot do the work all on their own. They need support, help and assistance with co-ordination, which school sports co-ordinators will provide.