HL Deb 03 July 2000 vol 614 cc1278-80

2.44 p.m.

Baroness Massey of Darwen asked Her Majesty's Government:

What plans they have to promote cricket in English schools.

Lord Bach

My Lords, I am pleased to report that participation in cricket in our schools is increasing. Sport England announced that in the past five years cricket was the only game to have achieved this. The English Cricket Board has indicated that over the past year regular participation in cricket in secondary schools increased by 10 per cent to about 84 per cent of schools, and in primary schools there was an increase in participation of 7 per cent to around 70 per cent of schools. Furthermore—this is important—the ECB showed that girls' participation had increased by 26 per cent. The ECB is launching a school education programme in September.

Baroness Massey of Darwen

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his knowledgeable reply. The English Cricket Board report is positive and encouraging. Does the Minister agree that the West Indies and England team deserve congratulations on their spectacular performance last week? However, my real concern is about cricket in inner cities. Does the Minister think that young people in inner city schools have their cricketing potential sufficiently exploited? Do many of them later play for their county or their country?

Lord Bach

My Lords, not only does the English side and its brave West Indian opponents deserve congratulations, but so does my noble friend on her sense of timing in tabling this Question today. I believe that most of us in the House who were not lucky enough to be present at Lord's were either glued to our television or radio sets to follow a Test Match, the pure thrill and excitement of which must have achieved a huge amount of progress for cricket at all levels in this country. As regards the situation in the inner cities, the Spaces for Sport and Arts Programme is aimed at inner cities and the impoverished areas of our country. It seeks to improve sports and arts facilities in primary schools in deprived areas for use by children within and beyond school hours and by the community outside school hours. Childcare will be provided. Some £75 million worth of new money from the capital modernisation fund and £75 million from the lottery have been allocated to pay for it.

As regards older children, the noble Baroness may be aware that the Lords Taverners run an inner cities tournament for children who do not normally have a chance to participate in higher level cricket competitions. This splendid tournament has been running for some years and involves 16 cities. There are strict criteria to ensure that elite schoolchildren are not invited to participate. Individuals must not have played in a county board side and must be under the age of 16 the previous September. The Lords Taverners are much to be congratulated on their scheme. Such schemes are very much to be encouraged but there is still much to be done.

Baroness Young

My Lords, I welcome what the Minister has said on this subject. Is he satisfied that the strong feeling that ran through the educational system against competitive sport of any kind is a thing of the past?

Lord Bach

My Lords, I am always loath to take issue with the noble Baroness. However, I do not accept that the anti-competitive spirit, as she calls it, ran through all our educational establishments. The Government believe that competition in sport and in schools is an excellent thing for the individual and for the community.

Lord St John of Bletso

My Lords, while the promotion of kwik cricket, and now inter cricket, has done an enormous amount to promote the game among young boys and girls, is it not the case that the lack of PE teachers who can teach cricket and the lack of time devoted to PE is curbing substantially the promotion of cricket in primary schools? How many schools have applied for sports college status, such as the school in Coventry which is now a cricket team school of sporting excellence? This has done an enormous amount to encourage children who can play sport at a high level.

Lord Bach

My Lords, to answer the noble Lord's last question first, 67 specialist sport schools will be up and running by September of this year. The aim is to have 110 by 2003. So far as concerns his other questions, there are no shortages at all of PE specialists training to become teachers in secondary schools. However, so far as concerns primary school teachers, there have been some difficulties and we are working extremely hard to ensure that there are PE specialists in primary schools. It is worth noting that many more primary schools now involve themselves in cricket— largely because of kwik cricket—than was the case a few years ago.

Lord Addington

My Lords, would it not be useful if relevant sport qualifications were taken into account on teachers' applications for performance related pay if they were prepared to use their qualifications for the improvement of schools as a whole? If not, can the Minister explain how the Government intend to repair the damage that has been done to our traditional school base of teachers helping after hours, which has been driven out by the amount of time and red tape involved?

Lord Bach

My Lords, the noble Lord's question is very interesting. I should like to go away and consider the matter and let him know.

Lord MacLaurin of Knebworth

My Lords, I thank the House for congratulating the England team on its fine win on Saturday. I am sure the team will be pleased to receive your Lordships' congratulations. Is the Minister aware that, in comparison with successful sporting nations such as France and Germany—which spend more than £5 and £3 per head of population on sport respectively—sadly, the United Kingdom lags far behind, spending only 88p. Do the Government realise that in the case of cricket, which is not a rich sport, any modest increase in public expenditure would have a tremendously positive impact out of all proportion to the money spent?

Lord Bach

My Lords, before I answer the noble Lord, perhaps I may congratulate him and his board on a superb cricket report of the past year and on the undoubted progress that is being made. In that report, the ECB talks favourably of relations with the Government, with Ministers and with schools. Of course we wish to put much more into sport than we do at present. The noble Lord will know better than most that in February this year Sport England confirmed an Exchequer grant of just short of £1 million over the next four years, which is in addition to the much larger sum of £7 million a year that the ECB, under his leadership, and the counties spend between them on the development of cricket.