HC Deb 02 February 2004 vol 417 cc520-3
7. Ms Meg Munn(Lab/Co-op) (Sheffield, Heeley)

What plans she has to increase the number of qualified sports coaches employed at a local level. [151927]

The Minister for Sport and Tourism (Mr. Richard Caborn)

My Department is working closely with Sport England to create 3,000 full and part-time community sports coaches by 2006. They will work across a range of schools, clubs and local authorities to ensure that the maximum number of young people benefit from good quality coaching.

Ms Munn

When I visited an athletics camp in Norfolk park in my constituency in the summer, the athletics development worker told me that he had more funding for the six weeks of the holiday than he did for the rest of the year. Will my right hon. Friend look into this and also consider the need to provide funds where possible for youngsters from poorer areas for transport to venues to pursue their sports and for equipment?

Mr. Caborn

The summer splash programmes were highly successful and we must put such programmes on to a more sustainable basis. That is but one part of trying to invest strategically and make sustainable Britain's sports infrastructure. That is why, through the sports colleges, we are committed to two hours of quality physical activity or sport for every child every week from the ages of five to 16. I have already mentioned the club-to-school link. Seventy per cent. of our young people do not continue to participate in an active sport when they leave school. We are dealing with the structural weaknesses in the club structure and in coaching. We will not make the system sustainable by addressing them singly—it has to be done in a much more strategic and focused way.

Mr. Don Foster(LD) (Bath)

The Minister rightly points to the 3,000 people who will benefit from the coach match scheme, but does he recognise that about 1.5 million volunteers who are assisting in the development of sport will not benefit from it? To assist them, will he renew his energies in working with his colleagues in the Department for Education and Skills to ensure that the sports governing bodies coaching award schemes meet the criteria for funding from the Learning and Skills Council?

Mr. Caborn

Yes. Although we are investing in sport in general, the hon. Gentleman is right to identify the particular area of coaching. That is why we have not only invested in 3,000 coaches, but are looking for the first time at making coaching a profession in its own right. To that end, Sports Coach UK has developed five levels of coaching. All the governing bodies have come together to sign up to that, which is a welcome first. Those involved in sport are making a concerted effort collectively to ensure that its systems and structures are much more sustainable. Where we can invest in those areas, we want to continue to do so.

Mr. Michael Foster(Lab) (Worcester)

Having a large number of qualified sports coaches may do some good, but without a decent—or safe—infrastructure, the work that they do will come to nothing. On Friday, I came across the case of Nunnery Wood athletics track in Worcester, which, having been promised 50 per cent. match funding under the community athletics refurbishment programme to make its track safe, was told by Sport England that it is now to get less than 20 per cent. match funding. Will my right hon. Friend undertake to look at that case and to try to ensure that we have decent tracks and infrastructure, as well as a large number of qualified sports coaches?

Mr. Caborn

If my hon. Friend writes to me with the details, I will do so. He should take note of the fact that Sport England is trying, with our support, to develop multisport clubs to arrest the figure of 70 per cent. of young people who do not continue sport when they leave school. Those clubs will have the facilities and coaching that are necessary to ensure that the governing bodies and local club structures can work together much more effectively. Young people are more likely to stay in sport if they are given access to a range of sports, rather than a single sport. We need a cultural change in how we deliver sport.

Miss Anne McIntosh(Con) (Vale of York)

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that his proposals put even more pressure on local authority budgets to provide coaches at a time when several swimming pools in north Yorkshire and elsewhere are coming under threat because of the amount of money that they need? The funds from Sport England are simply not enough. What does the right hon. Gentleman propose to do to relieve local authorities' budgets?

Mr. Caborn

That is true, and we are working with local authorities in that regard. Changes are taking place in our society and in our communities as regards sports facilities. There are now more swimming pools in this country than there have been for many years, many of which are in the private sector. We have to develop a structure with the various governing bodies, including those for swimming. Ofsted uses swimming as one of the benchmarks by which it measures schools' activity levels. We are working with swimming associations and local authorities to ensure that the facilities are there for the C, D and E groups.

Mr. Andy Reed(Lab/Co-op) (Loughborough)

As my right hon. Friend knows, I warmly welcome the introduction of coaches, especially at grass-roots level. However, will he ensure that that is only the first stage? As he rightly said, we need to ensure that coaches who would not necessarily benefit from the project now realise that there is a form of career progression in coaching, which is a much-maligned profession that has not been especially well supported in the past. Will he ensure that the scheme is a good example of moving forward and that, after a successful 12 to 24 months, he will take it back to the Exchequer to show that we can deliver when we put Exchequer funding into sports projects?

Mr. Caborn

Very much so. I know that my hon. Friend has been active in such matters for many years. We have a foreign coach for nearly all our national sports, including soccer, and we could be condemned for that because it says much about the lack of professionalism in the structure of coaching. Our young people—and, indeed, our coaches—are as good as any in the world. We are trying to ensure that there is proper investment and that we have a proper career structure—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Moss) goes on about it. When the Tories were in power, they did nothing about the coaching profession. Since we have come to power, we have developed with the governing bodies a proper structure and a profession in which young people can get sustainable employment. We will deliver national games with national coaches from the United Kingdom.

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