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Participation in Sport

Volume 506: debated on Monday 1 March 2010

6. What assessment he has made of his Department’s progress in increasing the level of participation in sport since 1997. (318855)

The number of adults regularly playing sport has increased since the figures were first collected in 2005 by more than 600,000 to just under 7 million. There has also been a dramatic turnaround in school sport. In 2003, only one in four children got at least two hours of quality physical education. Today, 90 per cent. do and more than half are doing at least three hours a week.

I thank the Secretary of State for those figures, which are impressive. However, does he think that we would have made even more progress if we had had a separate Department for sport and health?

No. I think that the structure of governance that we have at the moment, which we introduced in 1997, is a very good one. That does not mean, however, that there are not very good arguments for my Department working much more closely with the Department of Health and the Department for Children, Schools and Families, as we have been on the whole public health, sport and physical activity agenda. We have been seeing the fruits of that co-operation and we will see further fruits of that co-operation in the weeks to come and in our manifesto.

The school sports partnership impact study found that declining participation was especially marked among the 16-to-19 age group. What progress has been made in reducing the number of 16-year-olds who drop out of sport?

The challenge that the hon. Gentleman puts his finger on is that it is more difficult, obviously, when young people are not necessarily in full-time or compulsory education to devise a curriculum that ensures that they take part in physical activity. However, strenuous efforts are going on at local level through the school sports partnership and other sports bodies to address the particular concern that he raises. I will happily write to him with the latest figures on participation among 16 to 18-year-olds if that would be helpful.