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Sports (Maintained Schools)

Volume 403: debated on Monday 7 April 2003

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6.

If she will make a statement on the level of sporting activity undertaken by pupils in maintained schools. [107051]

It will probably come as a surprise to the hon. Gentleman, but comprehensive data on physical education and school sports have never been collected. However, I can assure him that we are putting that right. On 3 February, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport placed in the Library of the House the initial results of the survey of school sport co-ordinator partnerships that took place towards the end of 2002. Updated figures were published on the website on 1 April. The second annual report on the Government's plan for sport shows that one pupil in seven has moved into community sports or physical activity clubs, one pupil in five is involved in inter-school competitions, and 50 per cent. are involved in intra-school competitions and events. Those figures are still well below the targets that we have set; they are not satisfactory. That is why, over the next three years, we are investing about £1 billion to put facilities and people in place so as to build on the figures that I have just given.

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his candid and informative reply. As long ago as 5 June 1998, the then Minister for Sport, the hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks), told the House that there should be an irreducible minimum of three hours per week of sport for children in schools. However, almost five years later, the Government's two-hour PE and school sport target is missed respectively by three quarters, three fifths and two thirds of schools at key stages 1, 2 and 3. Why should we hold out any prospect of success under this Government when their record both past and present is one of miserable failure?

If the hon. Gentleman wishes to have a serious discussion about this, I do not know where he gets his facts and statistics. I have been quite honest with the House and said that the data have not been available. We are trying to establish a database and, once we have that in place, as we now have, we will be able to measure results consistently. Our target is to offer every child between the ages of five and 16 two hours of quality physical activity or sport every week. The investment of £1 billion over the next three years is to put in place facilities—there will be something like 2,500 developments across the country through the New Opportunities Fund investment of £560 million—and 3,000 school sport co-ordinators. We now have 201 sports colleges out of our target of 400; and just under 1,000 school sport co-ordinators out of our target of 3,000 to be in place within the next two years. We believe that we have made a significant investment in the development of the infrastructure to bring quality physical activity and sport back into our schools.

Although I accept the points that the Minister has made, is the bigger problem not the drop-out rate from organised sport of people over the age of 16? Does my right hon. Friend agree that partnerships between schools and local communities to expand the use of school sport facilities are making a positive contribution? I welcome the £600,000 from the New Opportunities Fund to refurbish the swimming pool at Montsaye school in Rothwell. That is helping to promote more sporting activity for the school and the local community.

I welcome what my hon. Friend has said. It is a serious matter that 70 per cent. of young people who leave school and go into the world of work or higher education never return to active sport. In France, the figure is around 20 per cent. We have to look into that. The prerequisite for applications to the New Opportunities Fund for investment through the local education authorities is that funds will be used for community activities. We hope that the £60 million that we are investing through the governing bodies to strengthen the sports club structure the length and breadth of the nation will make a major contribution towards arresting that awful figure of 70 per cent. for people who are not active in sport once they leave school.

On statistics, has the Minister seen the latest Sport England survey, published at the end of February, which reveals that the number of children who do not take part in regular weekly PE or sport at the school at all is rising and now stands at 18 per cent.—almost one in five children? Some 51 per cent. of young people do less than two hours of PE a week. Does he agree that that scandalous failure of schools policy must be reversed if we are to tackle child obesity and prevent ill health in later life? I acknowledge what he is trying to do, but can he tell us how the joint public service agreement between his Department and the Department for Education and Skills will be monitored and when we can expect results, because a lot of public money is involved?

That is exactly what I have suggested. The hon. Gentleman refers to a survey by Sport England and, helpful though that survey is, it is just a snapshot of what is happening in this country. We need much more robust figures. As the Government are investing such amounts of money into sport and physical activities, it is necessary to get robust baseline data. In fact, that is exactly what we are doing. There is no disagreement between those on the two Front Benches—we want to ensure that obesity in our young people is reduced, along with diabetes as well. That is why the investment is there.

According to the National Audit Office, the wider nation's economy loses £2 billion a year because of obesity, £500 million of which falls on the national health service. Those horrendous figures need to be arrested, and we are setting off at the very beginning—in our primary and infant schools—and moving on to secondary schools and, I hope, into the club structure as well.