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School Sport

Volume 449: debated on Tuesday 25 July 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what proportion of (a) primary and (b) secondary schools have a playing field or playground where students can practise sports and participate in physical education lessons; and how much land was in use as school playing fields in (i) 1997 and (ii) the most recent year for which figures are available. (86872)

[holding answer 20 July 2006]: Data on areas of school playing fields and external spaces were supplied to my Department by local education authorities in 2001 and 2003. However, the completeness and quality of the data are not good enough accurately to assess the proportion of schools that have playing fields or playgrounds where students can practice sports and participate in physical education lessons. Nor can the data provide information on the total area of land in use as school playing fields.

Section 77 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 was introduced in October 1998 to stop the indiscriminate sale of school playing fields. Local authorities and governing bodies of all maintained schools now need the Secretary of State’s consent before they can dispose of a playing field or any part of a playing field.

Since 1998, 175 applications to sell an area of school playing field capable of forming at least a small sports pitch have been approved. Of these, 73 related to playing fields at closed or closing schools. In every case the sale proceeds were used to provide new or improved sports or educational facilities.