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School Sports Funding

Volume 520: debated on Monday 20 December 2010

12. What discussions he had with Baroness Campbell and the Youth Sport Trust during his review of school sports policy. (31433)

Baroness Campbell and the Youth Sport Trust have been closely involved in developing our proposals to create an Olympic and Paralympic-style school sport competition. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is leading that work and has held regular meetings with a range of interested bodies, including the Youth Sport Trust. Ministers and officials from this Department attend those meetings. My officials and I have had a range of discussions with Baroness Campbell in the course of developing our wider proposals for school sport, and we are delighted that she, like so many others, supports our new approach to school sports, with a new emphasis on encouraging participation in competitive sports.

This is a very humiliating day for the Secretary of State. He wrote a letter to Baroness Campbell, saying that he would spend the £162 million in funding for school sport through schools, but we now know that he has secured only less than half that money. So, it was his intention to pass on those cuts and make schools responsible for them, not to take responsibility for them himself. If Baroness Campbell is so involved in developing school sport, why did it take 600,000 people to sign a petition before he even met her? Should he not get up at that Dispatch Box and apologise?

I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his question, but he should do his homework first. I met Baroness Campbell on two occasions before we made our announcement: I enjoyed dinner with her and I enjoyed meeting her when we were launching our school sports Olympics at a school sport partnership in south-east London. I subsequently met Baroness Campbell and many other sports people. I have been meeting more sports people in the course of the past two weeks than I might have anticipated at this time of year, and every one of those conversations has been fruitful and constructive. As a result of those conversations, we have ensured that we are able to strip out the bureaucracy that characterised the worst of the previous Government’s legacy and concentrate on building on the best. That is why not just Baroness Campbell but Dame Kelly Holmes has said that our approach to school sport is right. In the spirit of seasonal good cheer, I hope that the rest of the House will get behind those two fantastic female standard-bearers for sport.

May I say how refreshing it is to have a Government who listen to representations and are prepared to think again? However, will the Secretary of State give the details of any change as soon as possible to people who will be affected? Redundancy processes are already in place, including at a school in my constituency in relation to the roles of development manager, part-time assistant and administrative worker for sports schemes.

The important point about our scheme is that we are giving schools additional money to support the participation of more children in competitive sports. As the Under-Secretary of State for Education, my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) pointed out, we are ring-fencing schools spending in cash terms and ensuring that the pupil premium is there to help the most disadvantaged. There will also be additional funding for every secondary school to ensure that it can maintain, if it wishes, its full role in a school sport partnership. However, let me make it clear: that money is for head teachers to spend. We are making sure that the bureaucracy that tied their hands in the past goes.

John Barker runs the school sport partnerships in Bolsover and works at Tibshelf school, which has already been mentioned today, in my constituency. If the Secretary of State could, under this new deal, give him a job running the whole Bolsover school sport partnership and provide a new school building at Tibshelf as well, he would kill two birds with one stone. The school sport partnership will be happy; the Tibshelf people will be happy; and the 100-year-old school in Tibshelf that is being held up by pit props will be replaced. Can he give that guarantee?

I have to say that if I leave the House at the end of today having made the hon. Gentleman a happy man, I will consider my political career to have reached its peak. I seriously accept both the case that he makes for capital funding for Tibshelf school, which is in his constituency, not that of the hon. Member for North East Derbyshire (Natascha Engel), and the case for support for the gentleman he mentions. I am sure that the money will be there to ensure that that gentleman can carry on his good work. As the Under-Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton), made clear, capital funding is available for Derbyshire and I will ensure that capital funding is in future targeted on those areas of greatest need. There are few areas of greater need than those that the hon. Gentleman represents, and few are lucky to have such an eloquent advocate.

We welcome the Secretary of State’s humiliating climbdown on the school sport partnerships. It is hard to know what is most disgraceful: the refusal to meet Baroness Campbell or the way the Government badmouthed the Youth Sport Trust, the hundreds of school sports co-ordinators and the thousands of volunteers. The Secretary of State said that school sport partnerships had failed, another Minister slammed them and even the Prime Minister said they had a terrible record. Now, in the face of a storm of protest, the Government claim to be leaving them in place until shortly after the Olympics, albeit with dramatically less funding. We hope that the Secretary of State learns a lesson from this, which is just the latest shambles he has presided over. Will he acknowledge that school sports partnerships have not failed and have not got a terrible record, and will he promise to back them up to the Olympics and beyond?

Order. In future, questions must be briefer, and I know that the Secretary of State will now provide an example of a brief reply.

I am very grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s pre-written question, which was so old that it could have been a primary source in a GCSE history paper and so long that one could have used it instead of the Bayeux tapestry. Anyway, I am very happy to say that the money is now there from the budget that we had already allocated for sport. If only he had been paying attention during the Opposition day debate that we had four weeks ago, he would have known that.