HL Deb 04 May 1994 vol 554 cc1164-201

5.39 p.m.

Lord Dean of Beswick rose to call attention to sport in schools; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I thank noble Lords who have put down their names to speak in the debate. I think it is an important subject for those of us who are concerned with children and their sports and recreational opportunities. Although I differ from the Minister in a political sense, I know that she has the care of children as much in her heart as anyone in your Lordships' house. This matter has nothing to do with the election tomorrow, because I believe that people have already decided which way they are going to vote and this little debate will not alter anyone's point of view. That is as good a reason as I can give.

Although the debate is specifically targeted at sport in schools, I have no doubt that it will possibly range a little wider, but I shall do my best to keep it within the parameters which I have set down on the Order Paper. The Minister will know that periodically I and other Members of your Lordships' House have questioned the availability of sport or recreational facilities in schools in the hope that they can be expanded instead of what appears to be a continuing contraction. That is why I am pleased that I have been able to have this debate on the situation.

My concern with sport has always been with the children at the base of the pyramid. I am not referring to the Olympic performers, because they have made it and they perform reasonably to very well. My concern is for children at the bottom of the pyramid, beginning with those at primary school.

A few weeks ago I attended in one of your Lordships' committee rooms the launch of a document entitled A Charter for School Sport launched by the Central Council of Physical Recreation. That is the umbrella organisation for nearly 300 bodies dealing with sport across the widest spectrum other than the professional sports. One man encapsulated in his few remarks what I consider the issue to be about. That was Roger Utley, who was at one time a top-class Rugby Union player. He captained England with distinction. After that, I believe that he was manager of the union team.

He cut through all the other discussion which was taking place. He said that if children were to succeed and be happy at sport and achieve anything, they have to start when they are very young. He cited his own lifestyle and said that in his very early teens he bought a bicycle. He spent most of his spare time riding up and down the hills in the North of England. In doing so he built himself a strong pair of legs and he also developed, in his term, his "engine room"—his heart and lungs. When he decided that his objective was to play rugby at the highest level, he had the equipment to do so. But he could never have made that possible unless he had done what he did in his younger years. That is the point that I am making—we are talking about our seedcorn. Whoever is in government and whoever is trying to look after the interests of children, we owe it to them to give them the maximum chance to develop their talents.

I have had numerous messages of support from the British Olympic Association, the London Federation of Boys' Clubs, the Sports Council and the Royal College of Physicians. They are all in complete agreement that something has to be done to deal with the situation. As an aside, perhaps I may say at this point that I feel, as I am sure most of your Lordships do, as a former inner city boy for the children who are not the achievers in the education system. All children will not finish up with a clutch of O-levels and A-levels. Disappointment takes place and if they have nothing else to do because of their academic failure, even at an early stage we should be in a position where we are giving them an alternative to which they may apply their talents. They may be very talented in other than an academic way.

For example, I read a report at the weekend that dyslexia has now been identified in one out of 15 children. I have had dyslexia in my family, but luckily, with the advice of friends in this House and because I have some resources, I have been able to deal with that problem pretty well. But what about the child who does not have someone to support him? He sits in the classroom and everything is going over his head. He is unhappy. Sadly, the resources are not there in depth to deal with the problem. However, some of these children are very highly intelligent but they have this flaw. Some of them are very good achievers in sport, given the chance. All I am asking is that, whatever comes of this debate, we look at making a happier time for children at school outside the curriculum of hard and fast academic lessons.

I know that there has been disagreement between Mr. Sproat, the Minister responsible for sport, and John Patten, the Secretary of State for Education. But I do not want to dwell on that because that is a matter for them. No doubt that disagreement will be resolved. However, I take issue with Mr. Sproat on one point. I believe that he referred in a statement to compulsion. I do not believe that there is any joy in sport if you are compelled to do it. Happiness comes from doing what you want to do and being happy when doing it, even if the element of competition is introduced. I come from that body of people who believe that competition is a damned good thing anyway and most children I know—certainly in my own family and those from my own background —would support that.

It has been said that the National Union of Teachers reacted badly to government statements on this subject. I do not want to become political but to state facts. Teachers have been bitterly disappointed at some of the Government's arbitrary actions against them. In my time in local government local authorities never became involved in deciding teachers' salaries, although the educational costs amounted to 50 per cent. of any local authority budget. That matter was always decided by the Burnham Committee which was an independent body. Quite stupidly, Kenneth Baker decided almost overnight to wipe out the Burnham Committee, without any consultation. I believe that he was warned by Members on the other side of your Lardships' House that he was treading on dangerous ground, but he still went ahead. There has been disenchantment in the teaching profession since then, but good will has to be re-established.

I do not believe that it is the job of ordinary teachers to deal with the kind of activity we are talking about because I do not believe that they are equipped for it in a general sense. If we are to have children involved in sport who will not be hurt by doing so and who will attain a reasonable level, the opportunity has to be provided by teachers with a special talent who love to take part in sport. Such provision should not be carried out in the form of 10 to 12 hours overtime each week just when it suits a particular organisation.

The Central Council of Physical Recreation has made some recommendations and it is only fair that I put them before your Lordships as quickly as I can. The first is: The need for co-ordination of sport and recreation at the local level in order that Schools, Leisure Departments, the Youth Service and the Voluntary Sports Clubs work on a collective basis". It is unfortunate that at present these organisations are working in isolation and very often they duplicate each other's work, which is a waste of time and sometimes of talent. Another recommendation is: The repeal of DES Regulations 909 and the halt of the sale of playing fields". I am not going into statistics as to how many playing fields have been sold off. Somebody else who speaks after me may do that. But there is no doubt that there are cases where schools which are in a dilapidated condition and which have the benefit of being in large grounds have sold off quite substantial parts of that land in order to carry out major repairs to the school or to keep the school running. That land is lost for ever to the school.

The worst places affected are the inner cities. I never saw or played football in Manchester on a blade of grass until I was in my late teens. We always played on shale because there was no space available. We have to halt that situation as quickly as we can.

Another recommendation is for: Mandatory rate relief for voluntary sports clubs and exemption from corporation tax for national governing bodies of sport and associations". I believe I am right in saying that charitable sports organisations in this country are the most heavily taxed, or are the only ones taxed, in Europe at present. So we are not dealing with a level playing field. We are treating them more harshly than our colleagues in Europe.

Another recommendation of the CCPR is: A minimum of two hours of physical education each week for school children". That should cover a variety of activities.

Another recommendation is: Grant aid to national governing bodies of sport from the Sports Council to be inflation-indexed". We do not want the money that is now being donated or accorded to those bodies to be reduced on the basis that a comparable amount will be found from the national lottery fund. We believe that any money from the national lottery fund should be additional and should provide further incentives for people to become involved.

A further recommendation is: A secure guarantee that access to recreational activities will be maintained under any consideration being given to the privatisation of the Forestry Commission". There is a danger of losing such access if the commission is privatised.

Further recommendations are: All private and local authority sports centres who employ individuals to instruct in hazardous activities must appoint staff who hold appropriate national governing body coaching awards. The money to be distributed from the National Lottery for sport must be additional and not a replacement of existing money for sport. To seek Treasury support for the harmonisation of the EC Sixth Directive within the United Kingdom so that voluntary sports clubs are exempted from VAT". It appears that only voluntary sports clubs in this country are charged that tax. Those are some of the ideas of the CCPR.

It is not true that only organised bodies are willing to help. People in the private sector are willing, able and ready to help our youngsters to develop and to give them the chance to do so as early as possible in their lives so as to enable them to look forward to a wholesome future.

Only today I had the privilege of meeting in your Lordships' House some representatives of the Butlins holiday and hotel company. At present it is running a scheme in conjunction with the Central Council of Physical Recreation, called the National Pentathlon Award Scheme. It starts with children in primary school. It is a marvellous scheme. That is just one company that is prepared to give money and to help. I do not expect the Minister to reply on that point today because it is a fresh point, but I hope that she will consider asking someone in her department to talk to those people because what they are doing and what they are prepared to do could be seen as a role model for others who are interested.

It is not just a case of involving large sponsors. I do not see why Olympic athletes should be the only athletes to be sponsored. What is wrong with sponsoring some of our future Olympic athletes from the age of five upwards? I believe that there are people who are ready to show good will and to do that. I hope that the Minister will be able to respond on that point.

I close on this note: this is a very interesting subject, but unless we start to deal with it now the situation can only deteriorate. I have tried to make an objective, non-political speech on behalf of the children who are our future. I want to see them develop. Finally, I thank those Members of your Lordships' House who have been good enough to put down their names to speak. They are doing an enormous service to the youngsters of this country and I thank them.

5.54 p.m.

Baroness Macleod of Borve

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick, for giving us the opportunity to discuss this subject this afternoon. I am also very grateful to those who drew up the list of noble Lords who are to speak this evening because I am placed between two very eminent Members of your Lordships' House, who are both well known for their interest in sport at all levels.

I find that a number of adults are very worried about the situation and take the line that we must encourage young people to take part in sports of all kinds. It was many light years ago that my father, an excellent all-round sportsman, encouraged all his five children to play games. As the eldest, I remember the fun of playing rugger at fly half and wing three-quarters, usually being shouted at to, "Pass the ball" just as I was going to score a try. That was a long time ago.

As with everything else in life, it is enormously important to start young. The encouragement which children receive at school will last them all their lives. Sport, in this context, means all competitive games, played both indoors and out on the playing fields. It includes swimming, athletics and physical education. All are included in our interest this evening.

It is becoming vitally important for the future of sport in this country that no more playing fields shall be sold off by local education committees. I understand that there are a considerable number of such sales in the pipeline, and I would urge the Minister responsible for sport to call in all such applications in the future and to give the plans his personal attention.

We cannot expect another Linford Christie or Sally Gunnell to be in all our schools, but we must give our children the opportunity to try to be as brilliant as they are. Competition, which is vital in adult life, can be instilled in the young, and pride in partaking in teams and occasionally winning is, I believe, part of being a successful adult.

We have heard recently that teachers in schools are unwilling to coach at games. That is understandable if they have no aptitude in that direction. I do not know how widespread that is, but I do know that at least five universities—four of which are Bedford, Birmingham, Brighton and Liverpool—have courses in PE and sport. Coaches can surely be found among the graduates. There are also many recently retired men and women who would, I am sure, help to relive their youth by teaching the young how to play.

I would urge the Minister responsible for sport to appoint some interested dynamic people who could use their initiative and imagination to get school sports back on the fields, tracks and in the baths. It must be done at government, regional and club level. Without this, we might be doomed to never winning the Ashes, never winning the Triple Crown, never winning at Wimbledon, never winning the Ryder Cup or even having the excitement of seeing one's club win the FA Cup. How awful a prospect it is. We must do something about it.

Finally, there is another side to my interest in this debate. As chairman of a juvenile court for many years, I knew that the main reason for the young offenders coming before me was boredom. They needed some excitement and they needed to go to bed exhausted by exercise. I am so glad that the Minister is in her place this evening and I hope that she will use her considerable influence to see that her ministerial colleagues, and principally the Prime Minister, are aware of our deep concerns this evening.

6 p.m.

Lord Howell

My Lords, it is a privilege to follow my noble friend Lord Dean and the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod, in this interesting debate. Sport, as has already been stated, is of vital importance to the future of the country and is not, or should not be, related to party political differences. We should all be united in our purpose here. I am glad to say that there are signs of the Government being increasingly willing to listen and to deal with these matters.

As has been said. school sport is vitally important to the health of the nation. That should perhaps be our first consideration. It is of great importance because it provides enjoyment for millions of young people. They learn to enjoy the challenges of sport and recreation. They obtain great personal satisfaction, and it enables them to extend their capacity for enjoyment in their own private lives. It is also of great importance to the future well-being of national sport, as the noble Baroness has just said. She mentioned Wimbledon. If we ask ourselves why we seem to have little hope of finding a British player to win at Wimbledon for some time, we need only look at the paucity of tennis being played in our schools and the lack of teachers able to coach tennis. We then get the matter into some sort of perspective.

No one can doubt the serious decline in school sports that we see today. The Secondary Heads Association has done us a service by carrying out a survey. It shows that in 1987 38 per cent. of all pupils aged 14 and under spent less than two hours per week involved in PE and sport. In 1990, that 38 per cent. had deteriorated dramatically to 71 per cent. That is a serious situation.

I shall say a word about swimming. I regard it as an essential subject to be taught and enjoyed in schools. Perhaps I may tell the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, who I am delighted to see will be responding to the debate, that at the last election both parties' manifestos contained a commitment to the effect that it was essential that every child up to the age of 11 should have the right to learn to swim and be able to enjoy swimming. But in 1990, the Secondary Heads Association tells us that 44 per cent. of 11 year-olds; 59 per cent. of 14 year-olds; and 54 per cent. of 15 year-olds enjoyed no swimming. Between 1980 and 1990 there was a steep decline in swimming for 11 year-olds in state schools. That is the extent of the problem which both parties are committed to put right.

If we look at the PE timetable, we see that in 1987 38 per cent. of 14 year-olds had less than two hours' PE or sport per week in their school curriculum; but in 1991 that figure had deteriorated to 71 per cent. Likewise, there has been an appalling deterioration in the state of playing fields. We should contemplate the state of our cricket. Perhaps I should draw attention to the fact that it is impossible teach boys or girls to play cricket properly if they are not playing on proper wickets—if the wickets are not maintained, rolled and kept properly. As a result of the alterations introduced into local government, we have had gang mowing. One cannot play cricket on a gang-mown playing field. There is therefore a deterioration in school cricket. There are also great difficulties in obtaining properly qualified PE staff.

As I have said, the Government's new thinking., as evidenced by statements from the Minister with responsibility for sport and the Prime Minister, is much to be welcomed, whatever we think about them and whatever criticisms we may have of them. I have some, but that does not detract from the fact that it is to be welcomed that the Prime Minister, the Minister with responsibility for sport and the Department of National Heritage are now beginning to get to grips with the subject.

In the leaked document from the Minister with responsibility for sport—or the letter that he has to write to the Prime Minister—he put forward some proposals which I shall mention in passing. I believe that he should rethink them. The first was a £500 additional payment to teachers for teaching sport or taking sport voluntarily, which he considered to be adequate. I do not believe that it will be adequate. Secondly, he wants to redefine certain sports as core subjects. He suggests that every teacher should be required to take a sport in addition to their traditional subjects. That is totally unrealistic, as some of us know who suffered from the supervision of school sports by teachers who did not have the faintest idea of what they were doing. I suffered cartilage damage playing football at school. It is an injury from which I never recovered, because I had an art teacher who did not have the faintest idea what to do about a sports injury. That teacher allowed me to writhe in pain and to go home instead of having the matter treated. That caused me to become a football referee, so it may have done me a service—I do not know —as I found difficulty in kicking a ball thereafter.

Then we have the proposal from the Prime Minister, I regret to say, that all the playing fields that have been sold at the behest of the Government should be bought back out of National Lottery money. I can only describe that as a futile proposal, having regard, as I said on a Question the other day, to the enhanced value planning permission gives to those playing fields immediately they are sold. It is unrealistic to think that anyone can buy them back.

We must think about the national curriculum. This is not a debate on the national curriculum. The Minister is probably much better able to deal with that subject than I. As an amateur in educational matters, the national curriculum seems to me to be far too big. We are trying to cram far too much into it. I hope that we shall have more flexibility in it. The CCPR and the NAHT have called for a minimum of two hours' sport, plus changing time. If pupils have to travel, as most of those in inner city schools have to do, to a playing field on the outskirts, then two hours including travelling time is grossly inadequate. But two hours is double what I understand Sir Ron Dearing is proposing. He is proposing about one hour. I am glad to hear that he might be rethinking that matter. I hope that that point is confirmed.

If one-half day a week for sport is good enough for the public schools—I have always admired the fact that they make one-half day a week available to their pupils —it should be good enough for the state system also. One cannot encourage school sport, and coach team games especially, unless one has that amount of time in which to do it. That is in addition to playing competitive matches against other schools—something which I regard as important.

We must introduce youngsters to a whole range of sports in schools. At the end of their school life they will then be enabled to choose which of the sports or recreations they want to follow. I accept, as has been said, that they will not necessarily want to follow team sports. I have to make the point, in view of what I have heard from some PE colleges, that there is no contradiction between those who want to play team sports and those who want to enjoy individual recreation in the countryside. There is no contradiction, because most people like to do both.

How can we go forward? I support the action plan of the CCPR/NAHT, which has been mentioned. I have consulted the National Association of School Sports. I am surprised that it does not receive more support from the Government and the Sports Council. It is responsible for drawing up all the fixtures, generally overseeing school sports, and arranging all these matters. It should receive much more positive support from the Sports Council. I am pleased that my city of Birmingham recently held a schools sports conference. All those bodies have produced excellent proposals.

My first priority relates to the machinery of government. I had the privilege of serving in the departments involved, which are now the Departments of National Heritage, Environment and Education. We must have vision and imagination. However, we shall not achieve the necessary co-ordination unless the Prime Minister sets up a ministerial committee. It should include Ministers from all those departments and include those from the Welsh, Scottish and Northern Ireland Offices, and it should probably be chaired by the Minister for Sport. There should be a co-ordinated government plan for sport and the committee should pursue and monitor it month in and month out. That can only be done at ministerial level. It is no good expecting sports councils to do it because they might be in conflict with education departments and local authorities. The lead must come from the top.

I am glad to say that the All-Party Parliamentary Sports Group, of which I am privileged to be chairman, met the National Association for School Sports and issued a plea of priorities which was sent to Ministers. The all-party group wants a government circular to be sent out, again as a priority, asking all schools to state in their brochures their programmes for school sport and recreation. That must be followed up year on year. We need an annual report from every school showing what is being done in respect of sport and recreation. We must ask governors of schools, in particular in light of their new freedoms and responsibilities, to take up the challenge and to provide proper facilities and resources. There is some evidence that some of the headmasters of grant-maintained schools are jealously hanging on to what they have but are not making proper provision.

It all starts in the teacher training colleges. If we do not produce teachers who are taught how to teach sport in schools, we shall get nowhere. Nothing like enough concern and supervision is being given to that. Sport in primary schools is also important. Many primary schools do not have a qualified PE teacher—in fact, I doubt whether there is a qualified PE teacher in any primary school in this country. That is where qualified people should be providing the basic skills.

We must also assist teachers to take sport outside school hours. That is the key to competitive sport. We must pay their expenses and, if we want them to turn out every Saturday morning or afternoon, we must consider giving them time off. If as a nation we recognise that that is a desirable teaching activity we must provide compensating time off. We cannot escape the need for more teachers and there is no doubt that that will cost more money. However, we can reorganise our education expenditure to provide for the priorities that I have listed.

I turn to children's play, on which the National Playing Fields Association is keen. We must provide open spaces and proper playing fields and therefore we must ensure the proper design of school buildings. I and the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod, are keen on the use of school buildings for community purposes. That means that we must have proper design and the Departments of National Heritage and Education must be brought together to provide for that. Not only will the school be provided for but also the surrounding community which it seeks to serve.

I trust that the debate will help to focus attention on the main sporting needs of our schools, which means the main sporting needs of our country in the long term. If it does that, we shall have served sport well.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Addington

My Lords, when we debate sport in schools we are effectively debating education in sport. The fact that we are debating sport in schools shows that there is a problem. The simple fact of the matter is that schools are not the sole educators in sport, and that is increasingly the case. For many years there has been a trend to take away from schools the basic education in sport. That has happened for one simple reason: school sport has become more popular and diverse. People are channelling their energies through clubs, which are more effectively training young people who want to take part in sport. That is a well-established trend.

In researching for the debate I came across an FA report on soccer in schools. It showed that, although in 1984 more soccer was being played, less was being played in schools. That trend has been accentuated by the changes resulting from the Education Act 1988. For whatever good or bad reason—I make no judgment—teachers suddenly found themselves with greater commitments on their time; they had to fill out test forms, reports and so forth. We are not debating whether that is good or bad, but as their time was taken up it had to be clearly accounted for. It meant that the extra-curricular activities in sport became squeezed. We must remember that it was not the games lesson that was the foundation of team sport in schools but the extra-curricular activity.

We must look closely at the role of school sport. Are we going to turn back the clock and return to the days when sport was taught in schools in a certain way? I do not believe we can because the same cultural background for sport does not exist now. We did not always get the best out of our pupils when certain sports dominated in schools. How many people were put off sport for ever by sitting in the middle of a muddy football pitch, with horizontal rain hitting them in the back of the neck, while a crowd of people merged round occasionally kicking them and the ball? Those who were slightly less active or less keen would sit in a crowd around the goal wishing that they could die or that the bell would go for the next period. The film "Kes" shows a wonderful example of what many people remember about their school sports fields. Bearing that in mind, we should not be too keen on returning to the good old days. For every good player who had a wonderful time in a good school team dozens did not enjoy school sports. Dozens of people happily played football in a playground with a tennis ball but hated the school game. We must bear everything in mind.

The noble Lord, Lord Howell, has gone into a great deal of detail on the subject. I do not disagree with him on ally particular point, which may be dull for the debate but it shows a general degree of consensus. We should be looking at schools as a sampling ground for all sports. Dozens of different sports are played in this country: there are two codes of rugby, there is association football, basketball, cricket, softball and so forth. If we develop the sporting culture of our country we must look upon schools as being the sampling ground for all sports. Schools will then carry out a function for which they are well placed. It is not necessary to have a wonderful schoolboy team at a junior level. Whether school or non-school, all that. matters is that there are under-18 teams or under-16 teams. Indeed, within the 16 to 18 year-old bracket it is common to find two competing teams. I suggest that the pursuit of excellence is no real bonus because there is a. divergence of talent. We must stop looking at sport as being contained within tight parameters.

It is all very well to say that we should have universal competitive team games, but we shall not achieve anything if that is at the cost of other types of sporting activities. If people are pushed into playing games that they do not like, especially when they are in no position even to register a protest, a great deal of resentment will be created. I can think of several people with me at university who were great athletes and who represented their schools at virtually every sport. Let us be honest, anybody who has a reasonable turn of pace and reasonable hand/eye co-ordination who is given some degree of tuition can play most sports to a reasonably competent level. However, my friends at university who owned a variety of exotic blazers and scarves refused point blank to take part again in sport for at least one or two years, and often for ever. They had had enough. Sports must be sampled and people must be attracted to sport on their own terms.

Team games teach people how to co-operate with others, to work for a common goal and to take on certain tasks. However, one ultimately plays for a team for oneself as part of a team and not for some mythical beast —the greater good of the team or the greater good of the school. One may take pride in one's achievements and wish to represent one's school, but first arid foremost one becomes involved on one's own terms. We should not lose sight of that. Anyone who is a voluntary member of a team is there because he wants to be there. Generally, he is not a member of that team for the greater good of those around him. We must bear that in mind as we try to instil into young people enthusiasm for sport.

I suggest that the Government have a wonderful opportunity to build on much of the good work that has been done by outside sporting bodies in co-operation with schools. Indeed, the schools can give back to those outside bodies one very important asset which has already been mentioned—playing fields and sports facilities. It is extremely expensive to acquire a sports ground. Most countries in Europe do not require teams to own their own grounds. In France many towns have a municipal stadium, where teams can play soccer and rugby. Changing rooms are provided, as are bars so that social functions can take place too. Coaching is provided for the juniors.

I do not expect the Government to build new stadia. I merely ask them to allow easier interaction between clubs and schools. I know that that interaction takes place now, but I ask the Government to build on and encourage that as it is surely the obvious way forward. That system also provides a selection of qualified coaches. As has already been mentioned, it is difficult to find qualified coaches. I suggest that it is almost impossible to guarantee a sufficient number of qualified coaches in any one school, especially if it is decided that we wish to provide the ability to sample many different sports. If we do not do that, many pupils will be forced to play sports for which they are temperamentally unsuited.

I have already mentioned unpleasant experiences with regard to soccer. A friend of mine told me that he was forced to play rugby and he did not like it. He described the same experiences—the driving rain, mud and waiting for the whistle to go—but he added that in rugby somebody also runs at you and tries to knock you over. Looked at from that angle, I can understand why people regard the game that I play with a degree of dread and contempt.

Finally, I suggest that the Government must take a look at the fundamental role which schools can play in the sporting life of their students. Such a role can only be the base for further sporting careers. It would be very sad if the end of school life was regarded as the end of sporting activity. The advantages of sport for health reasons are self-evident. If one is reasonably fit, fewer things go wrong with one's body, and that provides a ground of investment in itself. It is an investment in the health of our nation and provides an insurance against heavier costs to be borne by the National Health Service in the future. We should encourage schools to play a constructive role in the sporting life of this country.

6.25 p.m.

Baroness David

My Lords, I am very pleased that my noble friend Lord Dean has initiated this debate today, because sport in schools is very important. There has been a great deal of discussion about it in the newspapers in the past few months. I think that we want to know from the Minister whether the Sproat/heritage side of the argument, or the Patten/education on the other side, have come amicably together to a conclusion or no. Therefore, I look forward to hearing the Government's up to date position from the Minister and I hope that she will not say that we have got to wait for Dearing.

On the Sproat side, as one article put it, we have: Flexing their muscles and running on the spot, health freaks who are all in favour of compulsory games, believing that they are a cure for delinquency, rounded shoulders, pimples and under-age sex". On the other side, we have those who hated games at school and would forbid all compulsory games. But there is of course a middle way.

But there does now seem to be a nostalgia for Victorian times and Victorian values. We are reminded of the Royal Commission on Public Schools 1864, which said: Cricket and football are not merely places of exercise and amusement; they help to form some of the most valuable social qualities and manly virtues". In 1908 Baden-Powell said: Football is a grand game for developing a lad physically as well as morally, for he learns to play with good temper and unselfishness". And now we have Mr. Sproat saying: If we had more organised sport in schools, we'd have fewer little thugs like those who murdered James Bulger". One does somehow query that a bit when one sees some of the TV pictures of professionals tackling each other in a pretty brutal manner. However, the connection between sport and moral fibre does seem to be fairly embedded in our national psyche. I do wonder how much the present enthusiasts for team games are influenced in their opinions by our very poor performance in international cricket, football and tennis. But should sport be designed to produce cricket teams that can beat the West Indies or should it be an enjoyable activity, designed to improve the personal fitness of teenage Billy (or Bessie) Bunters? I am for the second.

Iain Sproat, in his 8,000-word report, asks that all pupils over 11 are offered five core sports: soccer, cricket, rugby, hockey and netball, to promote the supposed character-building qualities of competitive sport. He advocates the virtues of winning modestly and losing gracefully. But he also hopes to contribute to a revival in the dismal fortunes of our national teams. He is willing to offer more pay for teachers if they work after school hours and talks of National Lottery money bringing back school playing fields.

Let us look at the facts. There are far fewer schools sports fixtures at weekends and after school than there were. We expect sport and PE to be cut to 80 minutes a week. In the public sector, the average spent on a pupil's PE is £11 per annum; at Eton, it is £111. Since 1982, 5,000 playing fields have been sold, the land being used for anything from supermarkets to housing estates and roads. The National Playing Fields Association says that a further 200 school fields and 200 council-owned estates also have, or are seeking, planning permission for developments, so that, even if the National Lottery money emerges, it will not be possible to buy back many of them, as the noble Lord, Lord Howell, said. It was DES Regulation 909 which resulted in local authorities selling off playing fields deemed to be surplus to requirements.

As yet, there is no national register of playing fields or sports facilities throughout the UK, although the Government ring-fenced £½ million of its grant-in-aid in 1989 to the British Sports Council for this purpose. Can the Minister tell us about the progress of that register and whether the Government are monitoring the loss of sports sites?

The Central Council for Physical Recreation (CCPR) indicates that every day for the past two years £100,000-worth of sports fields have been sold for development. Surely it would make good sense for schools and the community to get together and organise joint use of many of the facilities so that they can be used all day and every day, as recommended by the CCPR, whose Charter for Schools Sport, published in March of this year, is, I should like to say, an excellent document. I believe that the council's recommendations should be supported.

And what about the teachers? There is no doubt that the goodwill which resulted in many committing themselves to out-of-school hours and weekend sport has gone. In a 1991 survey, it was found that 92 per cent. of primary teachers who had some responsibility for PE had no formal qualifications. Moreover, 56 per cent. of all schools said that they could not deliver the new curriculum for PE. That is serious. I think that the national curriculum for primary schools is very good, but, if the qualified staff and adequate time are not there, what then? There is inadequate provision of INSET; and some further PE training should be included in all initial teacher training.

HMI reporting in 1993 was critical of the lack of knowledge and expertise of those teaching Key Stages 1 and 2. Many of the poor lessons—and that was about one-third of the total—suffered from weak planning, inadequate organisation of pupils and equipment and inefficient use of pupils' time.

Of course, there are also other problems. In one article that I read, a teacher was quoted as saying: I am keen on sport. The difficulty is getting children to take part. The highest rate of truancy is during PE. Compulsory extra games would cause a stampede for the school gates". There is also the question of health. The Sports and Health lobby says that at least two hours' PE a week is needed to keep pupils fit. The sort of activity does not matter. The Honorary Secretary of the Conference of the Medical Royal Colleges said: We are not in a position to say whether it should be football rather than rugby. What we are saying is that PE in its broadest sense does contribute to the fitness of the child and, therefore, to that of the young adult". Sadly, over 10 per cent. of children between the ages of seven and 10 are overweight and a similar percentage of service applicants in their mid-teens fail their entry fitness test. I cannot help wondering how much children being overweight is due to lack of exercise and how much to having chips with everything. The unhealthy diet that so many have, particularly now that the well-balanced diet of the school meal is available to so few children, must have quite a lot to do with it.

The medical colleges went on to say: The sensible attitude of some schools in emphasising fitness over competition has meant sports menus are offered so that children can mix activities, which might include aerobics or dance". But Mr. Sproat would argue that aerobics is not as character-building as traditional competitive games. However, the Physical Education Association, representing teachers, lecturers and advisers, argues that PE is far more than competitive games. Schools must find a niche for every child and not just those with a talent for sport. What about the aquatic sports, gymnastics, athletics and dance?

I should like to say a special word about dance. It is very good for girls and for boys. It encourages listening to music, which I believe to be a very good thing. It also encourages the aesthetic and the creative sense. What is more, it is cheap and I am told that there are plenty of teachers around.

I want to tell your Lordships about Hare Hill Middle School in Leeds. In the 1980s, it had a very comprehensive dance programme. It was inspirational for the kids as they had a brilliant teacher. The whole school danced. There were two consequences. First, professional dance in Britain had more graduates from Hare Hill than any other school except the Royal Ballet school; secondly, while the dance programme was in full swing, Hare Hill moved from a mediocre performance to top of its league in soccer, cricket and other team sports because of its high level of fitness. So., I put in that special plug for dance.

My own attitude is that team games should not be compulsory, although I do not deny that they have some value. Working as a team with a commitment to others, and taking pride in doing well, is not to be despised. I believe that some physical activity should be compulsory and I have spoken of the special advantages of dance.

However, what I do think should be compulsory is swimming —and my noble friend Lord Howell spoke on the subject—for both safety and health reasons. It is one of the best forms of exercise and something that you can go on doing for the rest of your life, It is shocking that 25 per cent. of primary schools have no access to a pool. The cost of transport should not be an impediment. I ask the Minister to tell us whether her department is saying that every child should be able to swim by the age of 11 and whether they are going to make that possible? Indeed, we heard that they made a manifesto commitment so to do.

My final word is on boxing. It should be banned—most certainly in schools. I know that my noble friend Lord Howell does not agree with me, but I believe that it is a barbaric sport. The damage to sight and brain can be horrific, and we know about that from what happened last week. Some 40 years ago, an ophthalmologist gave me some pamphlets that he had written telling of the conditions of patients he had to deal with following blows to the head. Ever since, I have been a passionate anti-boxer.

To conclude, sport in schools is not in a satisfactory state. There is not enough time for it; there are not enough people adequately qualified to teach it; and acres of sports fields have been sold off so that there are not enough facilities for it. For 15 years—and that is the whole of a child's educational life from the age of four to 18—this Government have been in control of our education and our schools. They are responsible. Are they happy with the state of affairs in sport at present? Are they happy that, in fact, the UK provides less time for sport in schools than do other countries in Europe? I understand that France, Switzerland and Portugal provide twice the hours for PE in secondary school education. I see that the Minister is shaking her her head. Well, she will have time to contradict me when she replies. I look forward to hearing her response.

6.37 p.m.

Lord St. John of Bletso

My Lords, "It is only a game" is the phrase which is heard when the discussion turns to sport. The implication is that there are more serious educational issues with which we should be concerned. Such a view has often prompted complacency. That complacency, in my opinion, has contributed, as many speakers have already mentioned this afternoon, to a serious decline in both the standard and the quantity of sport being played in our schools.

If it is only a game, the fact is that there are certainly plenty of runs required. I suspect that the last man has already reached the crease. When I say, "the last man", perhaps that individual is Mr. Iain Sproat, the Minister with responsibility for sport. It is certainly encouraging to see that he has started, as it were, to swing the bat. I welcome his recently announced blueprint for the revival of sports in schools, although in certain state schools "resurrection" may be a better word. I very much hope that many of his proposals will be accepted. His views have certainly found firm support among the All-Party Parliamentary Sports Group, of which the noble Lord, Lord Howell, is chairman. I am pleased that the debate has again been re-opened and I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dean, for pressing the Motion once again.

As most noble Lords have already said, it is important for sport to be an enjoyable exercise. Many speakers have already discussed the importance of sport in a balanced education. Surely it is preferable to have our younger generation exerting and enjoying themselves on the sports fields rather than aimlessly hanging around video arcades or, as the noble Baroness, Lady David, said, eating chips in their spare time. Fit bodies make fit minds, they once said. That certainly is still true. By sport I do not mean stepping on and off benches or walking around the countryside. I am referring to football, cricket, rugby, athletics, swimming and the like: real, competitive, constructive sport with a clear purpose. Clearly, effective school sport improves general health and instills discipline. I was interested to learn from a senior teacher at a state school yesterday how some of his children who were unruly in the classroom could often be reined in and reformed on the playing field.

In the longer term a sound school sports discipline can only enhance the prospects of British sporting teams in the international arena. A tree is only as strong as its roots. We cannot pretend that the decline in schools sport is totally unconnected with the fact that the England cricket team has lost 11 out of the past 15 Tests, or that not one of the four home countries has qualified for football's World Cup finals later this year. This does matter. There is little in British life which arouses more public passion and interest than sport and there is little which unites the British people across all barriers like a national sporting triumph. There was a time, not long ago, when such valuable boosts to national prestige were common—when the England football team was unbeaten at Wembley, when Roger Bannister became the first man to run the mile in under four minutes, when England occasionally won the Ashes. Those were the days when schools, I believe, were far more committed to sport.

To expand on a few of the statistics already mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Howell. In 1974, British schools allotted four-and-a-half hours each week to sport, quite apart from evenings and Saturday mornings set aside for practice and matches. In 1984 just over three-quarters of pupils were still getting two hours of sport a week. But today I understand that less than a third of pupils spend two hours a week on physical education. This decline is most pronounced in the state sector, in contrast to the vast majority of independent schools which have continued to promote sport; incidentally, with the result that Britain continues to excel at those codes such as rowing, sailing and rugby which are traditionally pursued in the public schools. As the noble Baroness, Lady David, has already said, in the state sector the amount spent on each pupil's physical education is only £11 a year, whereas at Eton the corresponding figure is £111.

I have little doubt that this steady decline of sport in state schools is of concern to many, and it powerfully begs the question: what can be done? The Government have, of course, included physical education in the national curriculum and this is to be welcomed, but I believe the central challenge is to reverse the trend that grew from the teachers' strikes in the 1980s, when disaffected teachers refused to coach sport after hours as a form of industrial action.

As time passed the teachers' protest has seemed to become a habit, and the infrastructure of schools sport, in my opinion, has begun to decay. The combination of shrinking fixture lists due to fewer schools fielding fewer teams, inadequate equipment and facilities and, above all, many teachers, unenthusiastic about sport, started to transmit a clear message to pupils, many of whom began to conclude that, "If the teacher cannot be bothered with sport, why should I?" A decade ago, it was widely regarded as an honour and a privilege to represent your school at sport. Regrettably, in many schools this is no longer the case.

I believe that government action should seek, first, to raise the general status of sport in state schools, and then, specifically, to revive enthusiasm—a point that has already been made by many noble Lords—among more of the teaching profession to get out there and start teaching sport once again. The first aim could be achieved, in part, by a decision to cease the sale of school playing fields. As a result of an unholy alliance between ideologies—on the left, those teachers and local authorities who did not believe in competitive sport and, on the right, the marketeers who rushed to buy land for new developments—no fewer than 5,000 sports fields have been sold during the past decade. This is particularly alarming in view of the Department for Education's figures which predict that, in some 10 years, there will be almost 17 per cent. more children in school.

Furthermore, it is generally accepted that a healthy acreage of playing fields in a given area is six acres per 1,000 children over the age of eight. It seems obvious that we cannot afford to be selling these assets.

Secondly, I believe provision could be made for greater use of specialist coaches and in-service organisers. I am aware that some insurance policies require a member of staff to be present at all school sporting events. But it remains true to say that sport, like anything else, is most effectively taught by those who truly care about sport and, most importantly, by people with a profound knowledge of sport. This past week we have been harshly reminded how dangerous sport can be and, within schools, safety and high standards of professionalism should be paramount. In this respect, the sports Minister's proposal that each and every teacher should coach at least two sports may be a bit impractical. Forcing disinterested academics to pull on track suits would probably prove counter-productive for many concerned.

Some teachers, and indeed the national teachers' unions, have argued that "after-hours" sports coaching should be properly remunerated, and this point has been rightly addressed by the sports Minister. Certain teachers have also suggested that recently introduced administrative duties leave no time for pursuing sport. This may be true to a degree, but the ongoing review of the national curriculum will, I believe, reduce the teachers' workload—and it often seems the case, that where there is a will, time will be found. For example, I am sure there are relatively few teachers who cannot find the time to supervise a skiing trip to the Alps during the school term. However, coaching the under-15 Bs on a wet and windy afternoon might seem a less glamorous prospect, but it is no less worthwhile.

In conclusion, the sports Minister has set out boldly on the path towards restoring sport in our schools. I dare say there are a number of seasoned campaigners in both this House and the other place who reckon that his initial enthusiasm will eventually be ground down by the slow march of the educational establishment. But I hope that the Minister is successful in his aims. School sport is something well worth fighting for. It is much more than just a game.

6.49 p.m.

Baroness Nicol

My Lords, I join everyone else in thanking my noble friend Lord Dean for giving us this opportunity. Unlike other speakers this evening I bring to the debate absolutely no expertise in sport at all, having managed, I am ashamed to say, to avoid all organised sport in my extreme youth and having been brought up in a rural district where the only place to swim was an icy mountain river. I managed to avoid that as well. Therefore I know what I have missed because I can see now, from observing my own children and indeed my grandchildren, what a great benefit school sport can be.

A report from the Central Council of Physical Recreation, to which others have referred, opens by saying, that it is every child's entitlement to learn the pleasures of sport and the fundamentals of lifelong good health through physical activity while at school". That statement appears to have unanimous support. It will also have the support of most parents and, no doubt, of many members of the public who are not parents but who have a firm belief that the inclusion of sport and physical education in the list of school activities solves all the problems of health, happiness and juvenile delinquency. That belief has been subscribed to by the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod, and my noble friend Lady David.

It is true that the decline in school sports seems to have run in parallel with a general deterioration in the health of young people and with an increase in juvenile offences. But we should beware of linking those factors too closely. Life as lived by young people today is much more complex than it used to be. They are subjected to many outside influences and pressures which were unknown a generation ago.

I think we agree that sport and physical education are important for health, as the noble Lord, Lord Howell, said, and, I would add, for social and mental development too. School is the obvious place in which to start the process. However, it is essential that the community as a whole must be involved in the exercise. Through local authorities and parental encouragement it should support and develop the school initiative. Here, it is important that there should be co-operation among all those involved. I understand that at present local authorities and voluntary sports clubs work in complete isolation from each other. I am afraid to suggest that they may work in competition; but I believe that that may be so too. In some, probably most, areas, the supply of sports facilities and playing fields is inadequate to meet expanding needs. As we heard, the Central Council of Physical Recreation paints a depressing picture of declining provision both in facilities and in the availability of trained staff.

Others have drawn attention to the deterioration in the number of playing fields available. Local authorities have been selling them off, as we have heard, since 1981. The factor that I find most worrying is that in 1990–91 just under £65 million was raised on those sales. That indicates to me an accelerating disposal rate rather than a slowing down process. The Minister shakes her head; I shall be delighted to be told that I am wrong.

We have heard about the adequacy of numbers of staff, not only trained in the proper skills but also willing to give their time and take on extra duties which may well spill over into their free time and weekends. My noble friend Lady David said that goodwill has gone; certainly, morale is already low in some sections of the teaching profession. I do not propose to go into the possible reasons for that, but it is a fact. I have talked enough to teachers in various areas to know that they feel undervalued and in many cases overworked. Any proposals to add to their burdens are unlikely to be received with enthusiasm. And enthusiasm is absolutely essential in the teaching of sport and physical education if we are ever to persuade the present generation of young people away from the computer keyboard.

In company with almost every speaker, I do not favour making team games compulsory. The keen will play them willingly; the less keen can be encouraged to take part. But in every school there is usually a small group of young people who lack co-ordination and an aptitude for games. The noble Lord, Lord Addington, painted a graphic picture of miserable children sitting in the rain on sports pitches. I know that that occurs. The marks that such experience can inflict on a child's character are not funny. They can persist into adulthood. Those children need to be able to exercise in different ways. I would not excuse them the need to exercise. However, the situation has to be approached in a different way, as my noble friend Lady David and the noble Lord, Lord Addington, said. Those children must be given the same degree of consideration and encouragement as would be applied by a good teacher in any other class subject. Sport is just as important and needs to be raised to that level.

The noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, said that sport is to be enjoyed. He is absolutely right. If children are not enjoying sport, something is wrong either with the teaching or with the fields of activity into which that child is being pushed.

I welcome the renewed interest everyone now shows in sport and PE as desirable school activities. It will need considerable effort from everyone to bring us back from our present low state. I admit that there are schools where that is not so. I know that there are good schools where sport is being taught and the PE is good. But so many schools have little going on.

I believe that with the right policies, with investment in facilities and in the training of staff and with co-operation between central and local government—it is important that they work together—together with the active involvement of local communities, the rewards can be great. Perhaps in future even our international image may be improved, as others have suggested.

The noble Lord, Lord Dean, said that the debate was not aimed at achieving Olympic standard. However, I believe that if the right action is taken now, Olympic standards come more easily within our reach. I hope that the Government will continue along the lines that we see emerging from the department and that from now on sport in schools will have a much higher profile.

6.57 p.m.

Lord Sefton of Garston

My Lords, like my noble friend Lady Nicol, I, too, come new and inexperienced to the subject. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Dean, for introducing the debate. It has been one of the most interesting debates in which I have taken part. I am one of the last to speak before the reply from the Government, but I hesitate to call it that because I do not believe that the subject needs a reply. I do not believe that it requires a contest between the Opposition, Government and the Cross-Benches. I cannot detect any difference of opinion in this Chamber about the importance of sport in schools. That leads me to the conclusion that there is no difference between noble Lords on sport in school.

Perhaps I may introduce what might be a slight difference. I apologise since that is the last thing that I intend to do. The last time I debated the question of sport in school, and sport for schools, was when I was responsible for an expansion of Liverpool at a place called Speke which shared its authority with a place called Widnes. We had built several new houses. We had moved people from slums. The only recreational field those people had was a building site. I became involved because of the delinquent problems that occurred in Speke. I suggested that it might be better to give the children something to do rather than to provide them with the ready ammunition which they had been used to in the blitzed sites in Liverpool. With new buildings and new windows we were having about 250 windows broken each day, which cost a great deal of money.

The only time that I took part in sport at school was when I entered the sports gala. I had only just learnt to swim. I was left with hardly a sport to take up, so I entered the competition for diving. It was good, the teacher was pleased, he was a nice man and he said: "Sefton, you have picked diving, you will dive". So I went to the high diving board; in my eyes it seemed to be about 300 feet high when in fact it was about six feet. I went to dive, slipped on the board and did a big belly flop. The whole of the baths laughed and when I got out the teacher realised that I might have hurt myself. He immediately came to me and inquired after my health, I was stinging all over. What did it teach me? First, to take part in sport even if you can only do a belly flop. Secondly, it taught me that if the right sporting attitude is exhibited in your performance you feel pleased about it. I was pleased that the teacher came to me and while everyone else was laughing he inquired after my health. To me that symbolised real sportsmanship.

My contribution tonight is along those lines. We heard from the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, about what happened in public schools and how 20 or 30 years ago there seemed to be a different attitude to sport. We were doing well nationally and internationally and everyone seemed to be united in sport, even on the field. But something happened. Dare I suggest that it coincided with the time when professional football was getting into its stride? When I see games on television with the players racing down near the goal and suddenly someone goes "head over tip", as we used to call it, and a goal is scored, I wonder. I say to myself, "I wonder why he did that, it wasn't a nice thing to do". But then I realise that when there is a nice fat bonus for every goal scored, the motive to score becomes stronger.

Because I am idle person, I am a fan of snooker. Ray Reardon and the other old players were my heroes but even when they were playing in the finals of the world championship they could both have a laugh and make it an amusing experience for everyone. Do we get that today? We see two young people at the snooker table and it takes all their time to crack their faces and even to relax for a moment. Why? Because there is £180,000 at stake.

Lord Howell

My Lords, I think that in defence of modern day snooker players, we should draw my noble friend's attention to the magnificent gesture shown in the recent world snooker championship.

Lord Sefton of Garston

My Lords, I was going to mention that, you have spoilt my line now !

Lord Howell

You're snookered!

Lord Sefton of Garston

We realise that that was a great gesture and it has always been one, but no longer. Why? Because people have only recently become addicted to money being the prize. My noble friend Lady Nicol said that she did not particularly agree with competition in sport. It depends on what the competition is for. I believe in competition, but the aim should not be to amass a large amount of money; it should be to prove that your team is the best and you are the best sportsman in the game. If that is what people are competing for, to get that title, I have no objection. I am a working class lad, I hate giving compliments to the ruling classes under which I was born, but I learnt this from school because of a good teacher: if you are playing a game, there is the saying: Not for the sake of a ribboned coat, Or the selfish hope of a season's fame". I think that is true.

Baroness Nicol

My Lords, I must correct my noble friend. I did not say that I did not believe in competition, I said that I did not believe in compulsory sports. It is slightly different.

Lord Sefton of Garston

My Lords, I apologise. I said at the beginning that I did not want to introduce any differences of opinion but there have already been two. I conclude on this note. I have heard in the debate indications that someone expects the Government to declare a policy. It was even suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Howell, that perhaps we could have a ministerial committee to consider the question of sport in schools. I go much further than that. I say, perhaps in the frame of mind of Kennedy when he said to the people, after being elected President of the United States: Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country". We can do something for sport in schools. I believe that if we get the proper emphasis on sport in schools, the right intellectual and cultural approach, it will make a tremendous difference to all in our society. We are breeding the next population and we must get away from the idea that daily is being instilled in young people that success is measured by the amount of money they get at the end of the day. They are drinking in that philosophy to such an extent that when I refer to the pursuit of a goal for the sake of money, there they are behind the terraces, punching away, expecting their favourite player to achieve that goal. They do not realise what they are doing. Why is it that a team like Liverpool, with all the support it has, can punish the young people in Liverpool by blithely accepting the sponsor's desire to change the strip every two years and to put a levy on the young kids? Why do we not do something about that?

I can remember the days in Liverpool when we could see dozens of football matches going on in one sports ground. We cannot see it now. What we must do is—and I hate to use the phrase "back to basics"—take two steps back. We must get over the problem that so-called sport is related to the amount of money that goes through the tills and to the medium of television. I am sick and tired of hearing loyal Liverpool and Everton fans in Liverpool complaining about—

Lord Lyell

My Lords, I regret interrupting the noble Lord but long live Everton! I am delighted.

Lord Sefton of Garston

I did not quite hear that.

Lord Lyell

The noble Lord knows well enough that I have a blue pen.

Lord Sefton of Garston

I do not know anything about that. The point I was trying to make is that I am sick and tired of hearing supporters complain that they buy a season ticket in the expectation that the games will be played at regular intervals. Then they find suddenly that television has decided that the game should be played on another night. That is wrong. Sport is now being dictated to by money in the pocket, and how much it is. We must stop it. I would not object to a levy on the sponsorship that is paid to the major sporting events with that levy being devoted to the provision of sport in schools and elsewhere. My own preference would be not to devote the money to schools for the provision of sport, but to school arenas which can be used by everyone anywhere at any reasonable time. That is the best way.

I was telling the story of Speke and juvenile delinquency. I finally managed to get baths built in Speke and during the first week in which the baths were open I had a conference with the chief constable. I asked: "How are things?" He told me that they had not had one single case of juvenile delinquency all the week. That started a decline in juvenile delinquency which practically transformed the housing estate. It was all because the kids were so tired after they had been to the baths that they did not have enough energy to get into trouble!

I have a whole list of points I could have referred to, but I had better not. I conclude on that note. believe that it is not a ministerial conference that we need, it is not a ministerial job. It is a job for all of us. I put to the Government a proposal which may be revolutionary in this House. A committee should be set up to look at the whole question of sport in schools. There should be no political division about it; we should be able to get on pretty well. The Minister should invite every party and the Cross-Benches to nominate representatives to that committee. Then we shall stop talking about what someone else will do for school sport. That committee should make itself responsible for examining the problems and finding solutions for sport in schools.

7.10 p.m.

Lord Butterfield

I am most grateful to noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, for giving me an opportunity to speak in the gap. I hope that noble Lords will not be too cross with me for taking this opportunity. I thought that I would be involved with Guy's Hospital this afternoon. In fact I got through things more quickly there than I had expected. The noble Baroness, Lady Macleod, will be very pleased to know that that hospital, which has the oldest rugby football club in the world, is proudly proclaiming that it has just won the women's rugby cup for the hospitals. I do not know who played stand-off half. I shall try to find out.

I have one or two points that I should like to read quickly into the record. One relates to the national curriculum and physical education in primary schools. We spoke to the now president of the Rugby Football Union, Ian Beer, and discovered from him that there were shortages of learning material for primary teachers. That was discovered by the Health Promotion Research Trust. I hope to be able to bring the Minister and the Secretary of State a very nice video that we want to make on the start of primary school physical education classes. We feel that, if boys and girls in the primary schools are not really confident in physical education, that will have an adverse effect on the enthusiasm which we all know is very important in school.

Secondly, I should like to mention some research that the Health Promotion Research Trust did among students. This is a very important health point. It was shown that those students who took just a little exercise— usually kick-about football, or whatever it might be— for about an hour a week had far less mental breakdown during the examination period. I am sure that the Greeks—"healthy mind in healthy body"—knew something about this. We need to pick up that old adage and use it to help us to re-establish sport in schools.

Other research by the Health Promotion Research Trust has shown that, if people do not get interested in sport when they are at school and follow it up when they are at college and university, unless they are from a family of sports people the chance that they will go on playing some kind of games into middle life is not high. Again, I feel that maintaining a continuum right through from the primary school teachers, through school, into universities and colleges—and almost all will end up going to college—and into middle life will bring a major bonus for health. Not least it will encourage people to keep the tone of their thigh muscles. That is terribly important when you get to be a bit older than I am, into their 80s. It is the people who cannot do what I am doing, stooping a little bit, who are most likely to become disabled.

I should also mention that the, as it will become, British University Sports Association, with which I am associated, is very concerned that afternoon time for games—which means the opportunities for competitive matches—is under threat in our tertiary education system. To me the importance of competitive games is that they just give people that little bit of "needle". Noble Lords must probably all have felt that for their maiden speeches. In my case it is true even this afternoon, when I am bursting into the gap. That is a good part of our general health programme.

I should like to conclude with some all-embracing remarks. How much I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Addington, about people sampling games. Of course, unless you know that you want to swim, if there are no games at all the chances that you will sample swimming are very remote unless you have a sporting family. People enjoy games according to their aptitudes. Give them a big, wide menu at school and we shall find that many more people are keeping fit into their later life. The remarks that were made about swimming are terribly important. It is frightful that children face the possibility of drowning because they have no swimming experience.

Lastly, I have a remark for those who are well off. Please consider leaving some money to your school for astroturf. It changes the business of sitting in mud which we heard about. I am so strongly in favour of sport in schools that I found this whole debate very moving and inspiring.

7.16 p.m.

Lord Donoughue

My Lords, I too wish to thank my noble friend Lord Dean for providing this occasion and for opening the debate so well. It has provoked a series of first-class contributions from noble Lords and noble Baronesses—especially, I would say, from the noble Baronesses. It is excellent and very encouraging that one-third of the speakers in this debate have been female. That is significant because school sports need to involve girl pupils as well as boys and women teachers as well as men. Without that, sport will never recover. So I say a particular thank you to them.

School sports matter very much to very many. I believe that they matter especially to the underprivileged children in our inner cities. It was a long time ago, but I know that in my youth it mattered more to me in those kinds of circumstances than anything else. It provided the bright spots in many otherwise dreary Northamptonshire weeks.

It is true, as the noble Lord, Lord Addington, said, that sport has to some extent moved from the schools to the clubs. I say to the noble Lord that the inner-city under-privileged are less likely to join clubs. In my view schools should remain the central focus for children's sports. They will do that if the facilities and the sports teachers are there.

During this debate two undisputed facts emerged: first, the belief that sports are good; and, secondly, that sports in schools have been in decline. The value of sports has been stated by all noble Lords, and was well endorsed in the 1991 Commons committee on education, science and arts.

Sport, apart from being at the root of our national sporting successes or failures, benefits a number of aspects of life. It benefits health. We know the problems of our young being overweight and of adults doing little exercise. It has educational value in the training of the body, as the Greeks taught us. It improves the morale of the school. It improves the relationship of teachers with pupils. It helps develop sporting interests which are very valuable in adult life. And it does, I believe, improve social behaviour. We had that from two impeccable sources: there is research in Canada; and there was the contribution of my noble friend Lord Sefton. I believe that sport leads to less delinquency. I wonder whether the behaviour of several younger Ministers in the Government somehow reflects the fact that there is now less sport in schools. The good of school sport is unquestioned, even if it leaves some individuals a little unhappy when they are cold and muddy. But I have a feeling that that may not be too bad for them in the long term.

The decline in school sports is equally well documented, especially in the CCPR's impressive charter for school sports. Nearly a third of schools fail to provide the mandatory two hours physical education. Some 60 per cent. have cut spending on PE and 70 per cent. have reduced sporting activity in the recent decade. Many children, like my own, have recently emerged from an inner-city comprehensive school with no sporting ability whatsoever. In my view, as they know, they are the worse for that.

The reasons for the decline are intriguing. I believe that it is a mixture of recent social and political fashion and government policies. In terms of social philosophy, in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s the Far Left of the political spectrum held beliefs hostile towards school sports. It was hostile to competition and therefore to competitive games. It appeared hostile to excellence or elitism and was therefore against winning. Perhaps it was hoped that if there were no winners, there would be no losers. Its influence on the public service unions was one of hostility to unpaid, extra work, and that rubbed off on teachers, while the women's movement may have hated team games because men appeared to enjoy them.

The Tory Right was equally reprehensible. I believe that Mrs. Thatcher's materialism, which argued implicitly that only money mattered, devalued unpaid public service. The same source of excessive individualism, with the stress on individual choice, tends to devalue team games in schools. I notice that a teacher wrote about the dangers. One of his students was pressed to play rugger and answered that he preferred cycling. Certainly he preferred cycling to football. When he was asked where he intended to cycle, he honestly replied, "Home". Mrs. Thatcher's assault on teachers' remuneration and morale also assisted in destroying the teachers' willingness to give the extra after-hours service that is needed to monitor sports.

So the Left and the Right of the political spectrum provided a lethal cocktail which, I believe, damaged sport in schools. Much of that trendy nonsense of the Left and Far Right is, we hope, behind us. This debate certainly encourages that hope. But we are still left with the same government. The fact is that the Government's policies have been equally damaging in practice and not just in theory. In a generally non-partisan—in my view a welcomely non-partisan—debate, I hope that it is permitted to remind the House of a few political facts.

The sale of 5,000 playing grounds was mentioned more than once. I shall not repeat those observations. I ask how the Government hope to increase school sports when there are fewer facilities and we expect more children in schools. Certainly, that dilemma makes the issue of dual use of school and local authority facilities very important. The importance of such co-operation was well stressed by my noble friend Lady Nicol.

But cuts in local authority spending also mean fewer local authority sports facilities to share. The pressure to impose full pricing on local authority sports facilities especially affects swimming pools and their use for schools' competitions. Swimming, above all, needs expensive facilities; yet one third of our primary schools have no access to a pool.

The new national curriculum itself has brought problems, with its emphasis on examination success and the consequential bureaucratic pressure on teachers' time, which leaves less time available for sports and physical education. I notice that the Minister shook her head when my noble friend Lady David mentioned how we provide less physical education than elsewhere in Europe and that she had seen a graph—I imagine that it is the same graph and the Minister is welcome to it—which showed Britain's position in Europe.

The Minister of State, Department for Education (Baroness Blatch)

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord for allowing me to intervene. On that specific point, the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, was talking about French schools versus English schools and not about sport in France as opposed to sport in England.

Baroness David

My Lords, perhaps I may just interrupt and say that I think that the noble Baroness misunderstood me. I was not speaking in that way.

Lord Donoughue

Perhaps we are getting a little entangled. I thought it was about physical education. I shall provide the Minister with the graph in which Britain comes bottom—as it does, sadly, in most graphs these days.

We are waiting for the Dearing proposals for the curriculum. I should like to ask when the Minister thinks that Parliament will have them. We certainly trust that they will restore the status and morale of physical education teachers. We hope that they will set a minimum of two hours a week for PE and will also improve teacher training for sports and PE, as my noble friend Lord Howell said. Above all, what is needed to restore school sports—which is at the heart of the matter and without which the proposals will not work—as several of my noble friends, including my noble friends Lord Howell, Lord Dean, Lady Nicol and Lady David, stressed, is the restoration of teachers' morale. There cannot be satisfactory school sports without the willing and wholehearted support of the teaching profession.

Whether that requires incentive payments for evening or weekend sports is a tricky question. The Government cannot complain if the teachers insist that all work should be paid, because that has been part of the recent philosophy. But it is a difficult matter and it is hard to see that applying only to sport. One wonders about drama, dance, music and so on. So we await with interest, and even impatience, the Government's proposals for improving school sports. As has been demonstrated already tonight, on this side of the House we shall respond positively, given the opportunity. On this Front Bench officially we are against compulsion in sports. My noble friend Lady David mentioned the possible exception of swimming. I can see the case for that. She also mentioned banning boxing. I have to say that, whereas in principle I sympathise with her, in practice I watch every boxing match on television even until two o'clock in the morning. What she said about brain damage is worrying and may be helpful. I was captain of boxing at school, which may explain a few things.

We are against compulsion but in favour of competitive sports. Above all, we support the provision of more sporting options and more PE teaching. There need to be more teaching, more facilities and more sporting options for the pupils to sample. Team sports illustrate our view—or certainly my view—of society. Team games have been defined as, Exercises in structured co-operation and the sublimation of individual ambitions for the good of the team". For "team" read "society".

Like my noble friend Lord Howell, I welcome the Prime Minister's genuine support for that view. The efforts of Mr. Sproat—I mean on sport and not on D-Day—should also be supported. That is encouraging. We ought to be able, as my noble friend Lord Sefton said, to reach a consensus on this important question. I look forward tonight to the Minister's contribution to that consensus. She speaks to a House in which the support for more school sports has been unanimous.

7.30 p.m.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, it is usual on these occasions to welcome a debate in your Lordships' House. In doing so I make a particular point. This has not only been a valuable and informed debate, as one would expect, but very well timed. I too thank the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick, for the opportunity to discuss this important subject. Not only have we heard from experts in the subject, but enthusiasts too. Unless it escaped your Lordships' notice, the Deputy Speaker, who was sitting on the Woolsack for a good part of the debate and who has now taken his place behind me on the Benches, is a stalwart supporter of Everton football club. I hope that is not fighting talk in the presence of the noble Lord, Lord Sefton of Garston. I understand that the motto is, "Nil satis nisi optimum"—"Nothing but the best".

I say also to the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, who made a marvellous speech, that his sporting activities after Lords and Commons ski meetings are legendary. However, I shall not go into the detail of that now. The other joy for me is that ageism has not crept into our debate today. Again, it will not have escaped your Lordships' notice that the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, who is not in his place this evening, skis competitively at the age of 80, which is absolutely wonderful.

The Government are considering the question of young people and sport. We are open and receptive to ideas and contributions. The House can be assured that this debate will be studied carefully. To set the scene, let me refer to the position in schools today. Doom and gloom, and many of the statistics that I heard tonight, are misplaced. Physical education continues to command the fifth highest time allocation in secondary schools behind only English, mathematics, science and modern foreign languages. The lion's share of that time is devoted to traditional team games. The independent schools inspectorate reports that the quality of 70 per cent. of the physical education inspected last year was satisfactory or better. That is not a picture of decline in our schools.

Many school pupils also play sport at school outside the formal curriculum thanks to the voluntary commitment of dedicated teachers. That voluntary commitment to sport is especially healthy in grant-maintained schools which characteristically attach importance to sport as part of the corporate life of their schools. Our schoolboy and schoolgirl national teams do outstandingly well in international competition in soccer, rugby, hockey and netball. Sadly, that success is not always replicated by their elders—or at least not in men's competition. Our women cricketers and rugby players are, of course, the reigning world champions.

I am not saying that all is well. But we do a great disservice to hardworking teachers and schools if we denigrate their work. The Government are determined to enhance physical education and sport in schools. Physical education makes a vital contribution to physical fitness and the health of the nation. Sports and team games in particular help to instil discipline and collective endeavour and teach our children to come to terms with both victory and defeat: to display magnanimity when they win and good grace when they lose.

The Government have given ample proof of that commitment. With the establishment of the national curriculum, physical education is now compulsory for all five to 16 year-olds for the first time. The noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, says that he is against compulsion in sport. If so, he must take PE out of the national curriculum because what goes into the national curriculum is a requirement for all children—I prefer to say a right for all children—to have sport in school. But that right means also that it is a requirement.

The national curriculum sets demanding targets for physical activity for all pupils whether they are star athletes or computer addicts. All pupils must be taught to swim by the age of 11. We have established training courses to ensure that primary teachers have access to physical education expertise. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister launched his initiative to look at ways of promoting team sports in schools. We must now build on that solid foundation. But in doing so we need to be clear what we want to achieve and what levers are available. As is apparent from this debate there are apparent distinctions to be made, too often confused in the popular press. We need to distinguish between the formal physical education curriculum in timetabled hours; sport in schools as part of the formal PE curriculum; school sport outside that time; and young people engaging in sport outside school. All those points were well made by the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and all of those aspects are very important.

Sport or games are part of physical education but not the whole of it. Physical education goes wider than that. It is to do with awareness of, care for and respect for the body. It concerns the development of the body and motor skills. It embraces activities such as swimming, athletics, outdoor games, and gymnastics. Equally important are the opportunities for sport in schools. They are not confined to and do not depend exclusively on the formal PE curriculum. Many pupils play sports and team games as part of school teams at lunchtimes, in the evenings and sometimes at weekends.

It is against that background that the Government approached the review of the physical education national curriculum. The national curriculum cannot bear the full brunt of reviving sport in our schools—a point well made in the debate. The objective of the review is to free time for teachers to use at their own discretion. It would be a perverse response to that objective to make physical education alone of the national curriculum subjects more prescriptive or to add to the physical education requirements.

But the Government are determined that the review of the physical education curriculum should achieve two things: first, to ensure that physical education retains its place within the mandatory curriculum for all pupils of compulsory school age; secondly, to strengthen the place of team sports within the physical education curriculum. Consultations on proposals for the revision of the national curriculum will be launched later this month. To answer the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, I believe it will be around the 9th. Your Lordships will understand that I cannot therefore anticipate the detail of those proposals now. However, I hope that noble Lords contributing to this debate today will also quite separately contribute to the discussions about the revision of the physical education curriculum once the proposals are published.

Manipulating the physical education national curriculum is not enough on its own. Much sport is necessarily played outside school time, thanks to voluntary commitment of teachers. That is where the opportunity lies to increase and improve opportunities for sport and participation in team games. If sport is to be promoted we must also reinvigorate that voluntary commitment—again a point well made in the debate.

The Government cannot act alone in that regard. Governing bodies and head teachers must give the lead within their schools by demonstrating the importance which they attach to sport as an integral part of the life of the school. Sports bodies and associations should actively form links with schools to offer expert coaching and promote interest in their sports. The noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, emphasised that point. Sponsors must come forward for local, regional and inter-school competitions. Professional clubs must help to foster games in local schools by involving themselves actively in coaching as many professional football clubs now do. It is heartening to see how many professional clubs are making a contribution to the life of children both in school and in the community.

Turning to some of the individual points raised in the course of the debate, the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick, who opened the debate so well, talked of developing the talents of children. As an example, he spoke of a child with dyslexia. That was a point well taken because education is about developing all the talents of young people and that includes the sporting talents. But with regard to the child with learning difficulties, whether dyslexia or some other form, one must not be concentrated on to the exclusion of the other. It is important to address the learning difficulty just as it is to make sure that sporting opportunities are available for all children.

The noble Lord went on to mention the Burnham Committee and how it should have stayed in existence for longer. I have some pretty painful memories of the Burnham Committee. It is my view that the Burnham Committee and the way it worked did much to show teachers in a poor light to the general public and to parents. It is so much better to have a proper pay review body and I hope that that will continue to be so.

The noble Lord, Lord Dean, also made an important point regarding the co-ordination of local facilities which was echoed by many other noble Lords, We must go on increasing the co-ordination and making it more effective at a local level. The noble Lord also referred to the lottery funds and to the issue of additionality. The point is well taken. The intention is that the lottery should complement, not substitute for, sports funding either from grant-in-aid by the sports councils or from local authorities' own expenditure.

My noble friend Lady Macleod brought to our attention the problem of children who are bored and who suffer from a surfeit of unspent energy. That is a very important point. If we can not only introduce young people to sport but help and encourage them to enjoy the sport, a point made by all noble Lords, that will use up that energy in a productive way rather than seeing it being spent in a negative way, perhaps on our streets.

The vexed issue of the disposal of playing fields was mentioned. There is a great misconception here. It is important to get the disposal of playing fields into perspective. The government funded Register of Recreational Land shows that the proportion of playing field sites which are under threat is very small indeed. Outside London, planning permission has been granted or is being sought for under 2 per cent. of the existing sites. That is 2 per cent. of 24,000 sites. Nor is it right to assume that disposals automatically curtail opportunities for schools to play sports. Schools have a duty to ensure that they have appropriate facilities available to meet the requirements of the national curriculum. That, of course, includes facilities for providing physical education, both indoor and outdoor.

Inevitably, there will be some schools and local authorities which have land which is surplus to requirements even after they have met their obligations. Often this land incurs significant maintenance costs and can be a drain on precious resources. Where that is the case, it is only common sense for the surplus land to be, sold off, especially when the proceeds are used to improve existing facilities. The sale of surplus land can be used to finance the installation of good quality, all-weather pitches which enable round the clock use during daylight hours and, if floodlit, in the evenings, too. Compared with the recommended seven hours per week maximum usage of a well drained grass pitch, this represents a huge increase in efficiency.

There are so many examples up and clown the land of enterprising schools and local authorities. I want to give two examples. I understand that a school in Bolton has allowed the local authority to build indoor tennis courts on its land in return for free use of that facility during school hours. A school in my local authority area and that of the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol—Cambridgeshire—sold one of its two separate playing field sites. The proceeds from the sale were used by the school to build a new sports hall which is used principally for indoor football and for cricket. I could give many more examples.

There has, I know, been local concern about the proposed development of Central Cricket Club in Hastings. As it was not mentioned in the debate, I simply use it as an example of the kind of concern we are talking about. The local authority has provided a fully adequate alternative site for cricket on the outskirts of the town. That site offers easier access and is closer to a number of schools. There are also plans for an artificial pitch at the new site, a development for which there was no scope at the old one. That is another example of where land has been sold but the alternative provision has been an improvement for the children of that area.

The noble Lord, Lord Howell, called for annual reports from schools and suggested that they should refer to sport. I am happy to say that it is a requirement now for all schools not only to produce an annual report referring to all the activities that go on in schools but also to have an annual meeting with parents where these matters can be discussed as well. The noble Lord went on to say, quite rightly, that the national curriculum was far too big and that something should be done about it. The noble Lord will now know that Sir Ron Dearing has done a sterling jot- He has addressed that very issue and in a few days' time Sir Ron Dearing's proposals will show that he has fulfilled a promise—to free up the equivalent of a day a week for key stages 1, 2 and 3, and the equivalent of two days a week for key stage 4, to allow professional judgment to reign, for them to make judgments at local level as to how that time should be used and also to allow vocational options to come in for children post-14.

The noble Lord said that public schools set aside half a day and he suggested that, if it is good enough for them, it is good enough for our own schools. I shall be able to tell him in a moment or two, using a statistic, that we go a long way down the road to achieving that. I must also say that the public school day is longer, as indeed is the week, because they invariably work on Saturday mornings, too.

The noble Lord made an important point about using schools for community purposes. The noble Baronesses, Lady David and Lady Nicol, and myself all come from a local authority that pioneered the use of schools by the community. That is well established and is now common practice throughout the country. It is also worth recording that, according to the two surveys carried out so far in each of the previous two years, the involvement of grant-maintained schools with the community has increased rather than diminished.

The noble Lord talked about the incentives available to encourage teachers to become involved with extra-curricular sport, a point echoed by other noble Lords. The noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, not only referred to it as an issue but also referred to some of the difficulties that arise from it. Why should we consider the extra commitment of the teacher to sport any differently from the extra commitment of the teacher to other school activities? Under the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Document, schools have flexibility, if they wish, to recognise teachers' involvement in extra-curricular sport through the award of additional spine points for responsibility. Many schools do that for teachers who co-ordinate drama and/or sports activities within the school.

The issue of swimming and the national curriculum was brought up by many noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Howell, my noble friend Lady Macleod and the noble Baroness, Lady David. Swimming is recognised universally as an essential life-saving skill. The Government believe firmly in the importance of children receiving swimming tuition as part of PE at school. The national curriculum for PE requires that by the age of 11 children should be taught to swim at least 25 metres unaided and to demonstrate an understanding of water safety. The great majority of schools are already in a position to meet that requirement.

Evidence from surveys conducted by the department in all local authorities and in a sample of primary schools at the end of 1991 showed that extensive swimming provision was already being made by schools and education authorities, particularly at primary level, before the introduction of the national curriculum. Of the schools responding, more than 80 per cent. from the LEAs themselves indicated that they already provided swimming as part of the PE curriculum. Of those not providing swimming, only 28 schools in the country said that they were more than five miles from the nearest swimming pool. The Government have nevertheless taken steps to give this small minority of schools time to prepare.

Implementation of the national curriculum for PE began in August 1992 and the provisions relating to swimming were deferred until August 1994. That should allow local authorities and schools time in which to make whatever arrangements are necessary before implementation. The Government believe that they should be able to meet the overall costs involved from within the existing budget, given the time for preparation.

The noble Lord, Lord Howell, gave figures for swimming. I do not want to take issue with them but they conflict with the figures we have in the department. There are many statistics. I have used some of my own and others have used them during the course of the debate. I should be pleased to look at the noble Lord's figures if he could possibly provide the source of his information.

The noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, said that a third of primary schools do not have access to a pool. I have just given the figures. The survey conducted by the department showed that 80 per cent. of schools already provide swimming as part of the national curriculum. Only 28 schools were more than five miles away from a pool. We have recognised that factor in giving time to achieve the requirements of the national curriculum.

The noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick, asked about mandatory relief for voluntary sports clubs. We are not absolutely convinced that a mandatory rate relief policy would be the most effective way to maximise sporting benefit to the wider community. Sports clubs vary so very much, from small clubs fulfilling a genuine social need to large commercial organisations which may have little financial need of rate relief.

The noble Lord went on to talk about the taxation of sports bodies. Although we welcome the valuable contribution made by sporting bodies, it would not be right to single them out for special tax privileges which other equally worthy bodies do not enjoy. As it is, many sports bodies are incorporated associations, which means that they pay no tax on income from subscriptions and many fund-raising activities, nor do they pay any tax on gratis donations. The Paymaster General announced in July 1993 that non-profit organisations would be exempt from VAT on their supply of certain sports and physical education services. A Treasury order to give effect to that was laid before Parliament on 10th March and came into effect on 1st April.

Lord Donoughue

My Lords, we have some difficulty about figures. My quotation was from the survey carried out in 1991 by the National Association of Head Teachers. It was one-quarter and not one-third of primary schools which had no access to a swimming pool.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, if it is a quarter, it is 5,000 schools. The local authorities would certainly have given that information and reflected it. It is the local education authorities which have given the returns to my department. If the noble Lord would like to furnish us with the statistics, we shall check them and I shall certainly write to the noble Lord.

The noble Lord, Lord Howell, was concerned about other statistics. I have a survey here from the Secondary Heads Association which again has been referred to in the course of the debate. It was also referred to by the noble Lord. It is only one source of evidence. The most reliable evidence is provided by the regular secondary schools' staffing survey, which is an annual event. That shows that the time allocated to PE has remained broadly stable between 1988 and 1992. PE had the fifth highest allocation of time, behind English, maths, science and modern foreign languages, as I said earlier. The average amount of time spent on games was three to four periods a week, which is about two to two-and-a-half hours and in the second half of every school day.

The noble Lord, Lord Addington, made a very interesting point about compulsion versus voluntary sport We all have some sympathy and some of us even identify with the little body in the mud on a cold, wet, rainy day. I believe that we have got the balance right. The prescribed physical education in the national curriculum is the minimum. It is important that it should be the experience of all children to be exposed to physical education. I have mentioned that time will be freed up in the curriculum for either more PE or more of other things, depending on the school. But what is important are the other aspects and benefits from physical education—physical activity, a healthy body leading, as the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, said, to a healthy mind. So it is a healthy body, and a healthy lifestyle. I absolutely agree with the noble Lord that the end of school should not be the end of sport.

Lord Addington

My Lords, I briefly intervene. The main point I was making was that school sport has a function as a sampler for the whole range of sports. That was the main point and not the level of sport and thus becoming a trial area. That was the main point I was trying to make and not the actual amount of time involved.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, we do not prescribe time in the national curriculum which has to be a matter for local determination. The range of sports involved in the national curriculum will at least have an attraction for the noble Lord. I invite him to read the new order when it is published in May. The noble Baroness, Lady David, said that she hoped that I would not say that we must wait for Dearing. I have had to say that we shall have to wait for Dearing. It would be wrong and quite inappropriate for me to pre-empt in public debate the details of Dearing in advance of publication.

The noble Baroness also referred to the issue between Mr. Sproat and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State. My honourable friend the Minister responsible for sport is naturally very much involved in the review initiated by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. He has expressed typically forthright views about how the Government's objective of promoting school sport can be achieved. Those views will feed into the Government's collective consideration of the best way forward. I prefer to accept what the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, said; namely, to make the distinction between what is compulsory within the national curriculum and all sport which takes place both within the freed-up time in the curriculum in the school day and all the extra-curricular sport which goes on too.

The Government are committed to promoting sport in schools. To that end my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has asked my right honourable friends the Secretaries of State for Education and for National Heritage to conduct a review of the current state of school sport in consultation with other interested colleagues. The work initiated by the Prime Minister will go well beyond the current review of PE in the national curriculum. It will consider how best to rekindle the commitment of schools to sport outside the curriculum. It will consider how the sporting bodies and the associations can best be mobilised to support sport in schools. My right honourable friend will be reporting to the Prime Minister shortly. I have no doubt again that the outcome of the review will be announced in due course.

An important point was made about teacher training. In the secondary school over 90 per cent. of PE lessons are taught by teachers with a post A-level qualification in physical education. Quite naturally, primary school teachers are generalists. They most often cover the full curriculum with their pupils. Nevertheless, the Government have acted to enhance access to PE expertise in schools. We are funding, with specific grant from this year, 56 courses of between five days and 20 days which are designed to equip serving primary school teachers with PE experience and expertise. The teachers who attend these courses will act as PE consultants for their own colleagues at school, so it will be a cascading system.

The noble Baroness, Lady David, asked whether we are happy with the past 15 years of government. I would say that yes, we are. First, there is more sport; there are more facilities; and there is better co-ordination all the time between schools and the community. The national curriculum has sport within it as a compulsory subject for the first time by any government. It is the right of all children to receive a sports curriculum. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has shown personally a special interest in this issue. We shall be able to read Hansard tomorrow where there is a difference between us. But, as regards the French issue, France does not timetable sport into its curriculum. Sport happens outside the school curriculum and therefore it is very difficult to compare a country where sport is timetabled inside the curriculum.

As regards the register of recreational land, the Government's sponsored register was launched in October 1993. It identified 23,380 sites in England and has data on over 73,000 playing pitches. The register is currently being updated by Coopers & Lybrand. That is funded by the Sports Council and it should be completed by the end of this month. It is said that 200 sites are being lost to development each year. That figure is pure speculation. The point is that we do not actually know and the register will be very helpful to that end. The Central Council of Physical Recreation says that playing fields to the value of £100,000 per day are being sold off. That figure is grossly exaggerated. The register of recreational land, of which the CCPR is a co-sponsor, shows that only 1.66 per cent. of the 24,380 sites it identifies are the subject of any possible development.

The noble Baroness, Lady David, talked about the importance of dance. I can give her an absolute assurance that under the current physical education national curriculum, dance, gymnastics and athletics are compulsory for all pupils from the ages of five to 11. They continue to be options for pupils aged 11 to 16. The proposal for the revision of the PE national curriculum will be published shortly and I do not believe that she will be disappointed when she reads it.

The noble Baroness also spoke about the inclusion of PE in initial teacher' training. That is again a very important point. Initial teacher training courses for generalist primary school teachers must provide a grounding in all national curriculum subjects including physical education. But recent changes in the criteria governing these courses will allow for the development of courses with a particular specialism which could include PE.

The opening up of school facilities for wider community use was a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and the need for clubs and schools to work together. I believe that we all agree that that is very important. The Government have a longstanding policy of encouraging the community to use school facilities with the community. Only last year we included changes in the 1993 Act to facilitate joint management by different partners involved with school-community use of facilities. New partnerships at local level are also being encouraged by Champion Coaching, a quality after-school coaching scheme run by the National Coaching Foundation. Through the scheme, local youth sports advisory groups have been established to bring together local youth sports organisations and to enable them to work more closely together. Champion Coaching was initiated by my honourable friend, Mr. Robert Atkins, when he was the sports Minister, and it receives funding from the Sports Council. I understand that there is some concern about continuing its funding. My information is that that is being discussed at the moment.

The noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, talked about the voluntary commitment of teachers. The picture is not as bleak as he portrayed it. The independent schools inspectorate, Ofsted, reported that in 1992–93 a great deal of sport was being played in the evenings and at weekends. That extra-curricular sport rested on the voluntary commitment of teachers. It is a disservice to teachers if we do not recognise their important commitment.

The noble Lord, Lord Sefton of Garston, was right to make a distinction between the aim of sport in schools and the level of professional sport where very large amounts of money are involved. School sport is about a healthy body leading to a healthy mind and, wherever possible, cultivating an enjoyment of sport, as my noble friend said.

My noble friend Lord Butterfield talked about the Health Promotion Research Trust. I shall look at the video that he mentioned. However, even if a pupil or student takes only modest physical exercise, he will usually be more relaxed, less stressed and less mentally anguished. I also take my noble friend's point about astro-turf.

I understand that I am out of time, but I must say that there remains much to be done in building on the foundations which the Government have laid. That is why the Government are actively looking at these matters and that is why this debate has been timely. As always, I shall convey all the points that have been made in the debate to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State. I conclude by thanking again the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick.

8.1 p.m.

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, I should like briefly to thank all noble Lords who have participated in the debate. It has been surprising that there has been no repetition. Most noble Lords have covered different points. During the 10 years in which I have been a Member of your Lordships' House, I have taken part in quite a number of debates and when I started this debate I did not know what would happen in it. However, I have to say that, because of its objectivity, it has been the most rewarding debate in which I have participated. It has pulled together different strands and united noble Lords from all parts of the House who are concerned about the future of the children of this country. I hope that such co-operation will continue in your Lordships' House.

Once again, I should like to thank all noble Lords and particularly the Minister. She made a long speech in reply. Nevertheless it contained much valuable information, although her figures may conflict with some of ours. I am not inviting her to respond now, but I ask her to take on board the last point that I made in my speech. I refer to those outside people who are waiting to try to help, such as those from Butlins with their national scheme for youngsters. As I said earlier, perhaps she or someone in her department could talk to those people. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.