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Primary Schools: Sport

Volume 567: debated on Monday 9 September 2013

Making physical activity integral to every child’s life from an early age is the key to an enduring, active and healthy lifestyle. That is why the Prime Minister announced cross-Government funding of £150 million each year for 2013-14 and 2014-15, to go to every state-funded primary school. This must be spent on improving the provision of physical education and sport. Ofsted will review schools’ use of this funding, and PE will remain compulsory in the national curriculum at all four key stages.

I thank the Minister for his answer. Will he join me in welcoming the benefits of the FA Tesco skills programme for primary school pupils, which aims to coach 4.7 million children by 2014?

I am happy to welcome the benefits of the FA Tesco Skills programme, and to congratulate my hon. Friend on his recent appointment as the FA’s parliamentary fellow. I can see huge benefits in sponsors such as Tesco and other well-known supermarkets working closely with national governing bodies to improve children’s access to high-quality coaching in different sports, which Lord Coe believes is an important aspect of our strategy going forward.

Sport and healthy eating are vital in tackling childhood obesity. How does the Minister plan to encourage more primary schools to spend more time teaching those skills in a busy curriculum?

With a third of children leaving primary school with a problem with their weight, that is a concern for us all, and as I have said, the final national curriculum, which is due to be published shortly, will make PE compulsory at all four key stages. The status of cooking and healthy eating will reflect the recent school food plan, so it is right that we do that, but ultimately it should be up to individual schools to plan their own curriculum to ensure that ample time is available to cover all subjects.

Does the Minister agree that taking part in competitive swimming should be available to school pupils? Will he discuss with his colleagues in the Department for Communities and Local Government the unfair funding for my home town of Hull, because our swimming pools are being closed, including Ennerdale, which is the only competition-sized pool in the city?

I am happy to look at the particular situation that the hon. Lady has articulated, but it is up to local councils to make those decisions. Many councils are opening swimming pools around the country, and swimming will be a compulsory activity in the new curriculum, as we have seen the benefits that it can bring to a healthy lifestyle for many children across the country.

The Government were warned when they cut the money for school sport partnerships in 2010 that there would be fewer children in schools doing sport. Survey after survey has shown just that. The Taking Part survey, which was published last month, showed that there had been a 10% cut since 2009 in the number of children aged five to 10 doing sport in school. What are the Government going to do to turn that around?

It is disappointing to see the results of the Taking Part survey, but the Opposition and the hon. Gentleman have to make a decision soon about where they stand on school sport, and whether they are going to join the consensus that recognises that intervening early in a child’s life and making sport, through the work that we are doing with primary schools, an integral part of their life is the way forward. I am happy to discuss with him how he can join us to make sure that the huge amount of investment that we have made in school sports, which is ring-fenced and will be inspected by Ofsted, will have a real impact in the long term. I am open to those conversations, but he has to make a choice as to whether he is going to continue to carp from the sidelines or engage in the real debate.