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Sport (Young People)

Volume 488: debated on Monday 2 March 2009

5. What recent steps the Government have taken to encourage young people to participate in sport outside school activities. (259231)

We will offer five hours of high-quality physical education and sport per week to every child who wants it. Nine out of 10 children now participate in two hours of PE and sport in school, but schools alone cannot deliver the full five hours, so through our PE and sport strategy for young people we are providing diverse sporting opportunities in a range of community settings. We are building links between clubs and schools, providing opportunities for young people to lead and volunteer in sport, and recruiting more coaches, to be deployed in school and community settings. That is being done through Sport Unlimited. We have also delivered exciting and non-traditional sports in a range of settings to over 80,000 children since September 2008.

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer, but can he say what he is actually doing to encourage schools to open after hours, and particularly to get children from poorer families to participate in sport? The situation is not uniform up and down the country; some kids go without sports. I remind my hon. Friend that the Opposition did immense damage to sport in school when they were in power.

I commend my hon. Friend for his work in Coventry on promoting sport and its values. We are pleased with the number of people who are given the two-hour offer, and we want to try to get to hard-to-reach groups, which usually include girls and people with disabilities. We must work with sporting clubs and sport governing bodies to ensure that the offer is given to them. That is why we will target those hard-to-reach groups through the funding from Sport England. As I said, we are already improving the two-hour offer to five hours by working with the Youth Sport Trust, so that there are great sporting opportunities. I believe that the whole House would accept that that is a massive improvement on the situation that existed before, when competition in schools was virtually nil.

Given that 4 million men and only 2.8 million women regularly participate in sport, what more can be done to bridge that gap?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising that point. That is an immense challenge, and we can meet it in many ways. We are focusing on particular policies through Sport England, the Youth Sport Trust and UK Sport, but there must also be a culture change, with role models among women sports personalities being portrayed in schools or communities throughout the country, so that people can see how good they are. That will inspire young girls in particular. We know that there is a drop-off rate among girls, particularly at 16, and we want to ensure through our programmes that we challenge those statistics, and that women’s and girls’ sport is improved.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on the fantastic job that he is doing on this matter. It is a far cry from what we inherited in 1997—[Interruption.]—when less than 20 per cent. of the kids in our schools were getting two hours of sport. We have increased that to 90 per cent., which means that there is 3 million hours a week more sport in our schools. As my hon. Friend the Minister says, we are going to build on that. We have stopped the rot of the previous Administration, and we are building for our schools and youngsters of the future.

I agree with my right hon. Friend. If it were not for his hard work as Sports Minister to undo the rot left by the Conservatives, we would not be in the position that we are in today. We now have a sound foundation of sporting infrastructure to build on, so that we can reach those difficult groups.

Following the self-congratulation, will the Minister acknowledge that having community sport for hard-to-reach and other young people requires at least some funding? Does he recall that, in 2000, the then Prime Minister made a wonderful announcement—the Government are good at announcements—of £750 million for school and community sport? That money was meant to be spent by 2003. Will he explain why, six years later, £75 million of it has still not been spent? With 3.6 million young people not meeting the recommended target for activity, were there not a lot of good uses for it?

I do not accept the hon. Gentleman’s criticism. He should be congratulating the Government on the amount of money that has been spent on school sport and its infrastructure. He will know that we have 470 sports colleges, 450 school sport partnerships, 226 competition managers and the best infrastructure for sport in schools that there has ever been. We should not be criticised; we should be congratulated.