[Sir Alan Meale in the Chair]
[Relevant documents: School sport following London 2012: No more political football, Third Report from the Education Committee, HC164, and the Government response, HC 723.]
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Alan—as the Ministers, my hon. Friends the Members for South West Norfolk (Elizabeth Truss) and for Crewe and Nantwich (Mr Timpson), swap places—and to have secured the debate this afternoon, and to have colleagues from across the House who are members of the Select Committee joining me.
My Committee published our report, “School sport following London 2012: No more political football”, in July this year. As the first anniversary of the Olympic and Paralympic games approached, we wanted to hold a short inquiry into school sport. Both the 2012 games were an extraordinary display of sport’s potential to inspire, move and excite us. For young people watching, the achievements of the likes of Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah and David Weir were a tremendous example of what hard work and dedication can achieve, as well as a great advert for a healthy lifestyle.
The games represented a badly needed opportunity to turn the tide. For too many young people today, sport does not play a significant role in their lives. As a consequence, they are significantly less fit than previous generations. In November, American researchers published an ambitious new dataset, covering more than 25 million children across 28 countries. It showed that children today run a mile 90 seconds slower than their counterparts from 30 years ago. Closer to home, in this country, one in five children are now overweight or obese when they enter reception class. The figure rises to nearly one in three by the end of primary education. That gives some sense of the scale of the challenge that faces us as a nation.
We were delighted by the interest in our inquiry. Our online survey about sports provision in schools received more than 300 responses from teachers, while a similar survey of young people received nearly 800 replies. We also visited three schools in east London: Hallsville primary school and Curwen primary school in Newham; and Barking Abbey school, a sports specialist college for 11 to 18-year-olds.
What were our main conclusions about school sport? First, we concluded that just as the foundations for verbal literacy and numeracy are established in the primary years of school, so too must the foundations of “physical literacy” be established. School is the one place where all young people have access to sporting activities, and it is where a lifelong sporting habit can be formed and built upon, which should be a priority for every pupil.
The Government’s position on school sport, as outlined in December 2010, emphasised the role of competitive sport. However, many witnesses told us that a focus on competition discourages some children, particularly girls. The Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation has reported that as many as half of girls are currently put off being active by their experiences of PE and sport in school. It is not that schools should not offer competitive sport—far from it. They should offer both competitive and non-competitive sporting opportunities, to ensure that sport provision appeals and is accessible to all pupils.
Our second conclusion was about how school sport is delivered. Pupils’ opportunities to become involved in school sports are often limited by a lack of facilities. For example, we were concerned about the availability of accessible swimming pools, especially as a recent survey by the Amateur Swimming Association found that around half of children aged between 7 and 11 could not swim 25 metres. Think about that; it is a truly sobering statistic.
That issue could be tackled through partnerships between schools to promote the sharing of facilities and, where possible, by encouraging private schools to make their pools available to local state schools. However, fruitful co-operation between schools is not simply a question of sharing physical resources; it also involves co-operating to set up sporting events. School sport partnerships were highly regarded by many witnesses. Their main strength lay in the links and networks that they created, particularly between school sport and community sport—the clubs in the communities around schools.
Evidence suggests that the Government’s decision to end funding for SSPs has had a negative impact on young people’s opportunities to access competitive sport in school. The Smith Institute reports that a third of schools have experienced a decrease in school sports since the end of the ring-fenced funding for SSPs. In our report, we recommended that the Government should devise a new strategy for school sport, building on the many positive elements of the SSP model. Can the Minister provide us with an update today on whether the Government intend to take such a strategy forward and, if so, on when we can expect it?
Our third finding related to the quality of sport teaching in schools. Ofsted has found that PE teaching needs improvement in 30% of the primary schools that it visited, and as I said earlier, it is at primary level that we need to get high-quality sport teaching in place, to build the positive attitudes, habits and interests for lifelong sporting activity. Research by the Youth Sport Trust shows that many primary teachers lack the confidence and competence to deliver PE properly.
In particular, we were very concerned by the discovery that many mainstream schools are unable to provide sport for disabled children, who are too often sent to the library instead of participating in sport. Initial teacher training for primary school teachers should include a more substantial course on PE, including PE for children with disabilities or special needs. When the Minister responds, I would be grateful to him if he clarified what action he will take to ensure that new teachers receive the training that they need, particularly at primary level, to deliver the transformation that the figures that I mentioned at the beginning of my speech show is clearly required.
If all these things are to take place, the right funding framework needs to be in place. The fourth conclusion of our report was that the Government need to ensure that sustained funding is available for school sport. Successive Governments have failed to provide long-term stability in this area, and the coalition should avoid falling into the same trap. The SSPs, which I have already mentioned, were undeniably expensive, and it is worth remembering that the previous Labour Government’s plan was not that SSPs should continue; they had planned for SSPs to come to an end.
The Government now propose to introduce the primary sport premium, which was announced in March this year. We believe that this programme is correctly focused on the primary phase of education. However, it is due to last for only two years. That is simply not long enough for schools to develop lasting provision. If the primary sport premium is not extended, this very worthwhile idea risks becoming yet another short-term fix.
Must we wait for a major sports event to be hosted in this country before the then Government announce some short-term measure? Occasional attempts at pump-priming or, more cynically, headline grabbing, are simply not good enough. We are also concerned that head teachers lack simple guidance on using this funding in the best way to meet the needs of their pupils and staff. Will the Minister therefore promise to look into how funding can be arranged for the long term? Will he also tell us what progress has been made on providing detailed guidance for schools, so that they can make the most of the primary sport premium in the time that it has left?
Of course, improving school sport is not simply a question of funding. Our fifth finding was that schools need to be made more accountable for their PE and sport provision. That would prevent resources from being diverted to areas on which schools are measured and held to account. Schools are rightly strongly held to account for the outcomes of their pupils, but where something is not a central focus for the school, it will be put to the side, and that happens all too often with sport.
Until 2010, schools were required to report on the number of pupils who participated in at least two hours a week of PE or sport. We acknowledge criticisms that that measure did not capture information about the quality of pupil engagement—it was not perfect—but we are concerned that, without some measure of activity, schools are not fully accountable for whether their pupils receive a decent amount of exercise. At the moment, it is highly unlikely that a head teacher will find their job under threat because they have failed woefully to provide for their pupils’ physical needs, so they concentrate entirely on the academic. We therefore recommended that schools be required to report annually on their website the proportion of children involved in at least two hours of core PE each week. If the Minister has alternative proposals, we would like to hear them, but sport at the moment goes by the bye, and that cannot be allowed to continue.
Beyond the time spent on PE and sport, the need to monitor the quality of teaching and provision was a theme that ran through all the evidence that we received. The Youth Sport Trust told us about school games kitemarks, which have been introduced to measure the quality of provision in schools. Schools should be encouraged to achieve such quality marks, but they should check that the scheme that they enter is sufficiently rigorous and meaningful.
I have summarised our main recommendations. Five months on from our report, where do we stand? I confess to being rather disappointed. Although the Government response to our report was broadly supportive, it avoided committing to specific actions or a changed agenda. It did not address our concern about the need for a longer-term funding commitment—quite the contrary. Nor did Ministers make any conclusive statements about their plans to improve schools’ access to sport facilities. Regarding our concern that schools need to be more accountable for the quality and quantity of sport provided, the response implied satisfaction with current accountability structures. Like many Government Members and possibly Opposition Members, I do not want unnecessary bureaucracy and regulation, but in a schools system driven by the outcomes on which schools are measured and held to account, we must ensure that important factors such as sport do not lose out, as they do today.
The Government response is all the more disappointing because, last month, the House of Lords Committee on Olympic and Paralympic Legacy published a report that largely echoed our concerns. It found that an exclusive focus on competitive sport risks discouraging some children from participating. That may be controversial in the Daily Mail, but I do not think that it is controversial with anyone who has had any experience of working with different children. The Committee reported that the difference in participation between young people with a limiting disability and those without is “unacceptably stark”. Its report highlighted the need for teachers, particularly in primary schools, to have specific training and skills to teach PE, and it called on the Government to conduct a review of initial training for specialist PE teachers. Their lordships also identified the importance of co-operation between schools, particularly between primary and secondary schools.
There is, therefore, great consensus about what needs to happen and about what is at stake. This summer, Public Health England reported that 70% of young people do not undertake the recommended one hour’s physical activity each day. What we do to address that lies in our hands. Sport is important for all our children, not just future Olympic hopefuls. I am optimistic that London 2012 can have a long-term legacy, but we need to do more to ensure that the promise that the games would “inspire a generation” is honoured in fact, not just in words.
If that is to happen, there is a challenge for every part of the system. Schools need to offer competitive and non-competitive sporting opportunities to maximise participation. The Government need to commit to longer-term funding provision and to hold schools properly to account. Teachers need to be properly trained, so they are confident in delivering high-quality PE and school sport. That is not rocket science, but it will require sustained funding, focus and ministerial support. In other words, it will require precisely the qualities that made the London Olympics such a success and that could now revitalise sport in our schools if Ministers take this opportunity.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Alan. As with my earlier contribution on school governors, I hope to offer further insight into the Committee’s thoughts—this time on school sports in the post-2012 environment—while expressing some of my own thoughts along the way.
Nobody doubts the importance of physical activity, and of having opportunities to participate in sport from a young age. Nowhere is that more appropriate than in our schools, where children are a captive audience and can learn of the full range of benefits that involvement can bring. I do not need to go into detail, because every Member present knows that sport can nurture the very best personal attributes; develop strong skills that cut across social, educational and physical frontiers; and inspire advancement away from the sporting arena.
Needless to say, the Committee’s report rightly recognised the importance of school sport as a central piece in that bigger picture. We were in broad agreement that the correct target for future Government investment is primary school level, as funding would allow positive messages and benefits to reach children at an early age and to stimulate the formation of positive attitudes that will shape future behaviours and, hopefully, last a lifetime.
That builds on the need for the Government to develop a long-term strategy for school sport, matched by sufficient funding to promote that vision. The primary sport premium, which is doubtless a step in the right direction, is not sufficient in itself. Similarly, while the Committee welcomed the Government’s announcement that 120 primary school specialists are to be trained, I share the concern that such a programme will struggle to improve sport provision across the 17,000 primary schools in England. With each specialist responsible for an average of 142 schools, I have difficulty imagining that any tangible benefits will be felt from investment on such a small scale.
At the same time, I am concerned that the positive outcomes of sport in schools are being jeopardised by the focus poured on to competitive sport, which risks turning young people away from physical activity altogether and undermines the purpose of encouraging a programme of school sports. The Chairman outlined that in considerable detail.
Like many of the witnesses who gave evidence to the Committee, I do not think that competitive sport should be done away with in schools. People, and children in particular, are competitive by nature. However, there is certainly a time and a place for competition, and I feel strongly that competitive sport should not automatically be favoured over non-competitive activities, as seems to be the current default position.
Inclusion and participation must be paramount, and they can be achieved in the simplest ways. It was great to visit the schools in east London, and to see some of the things happening there, including the multiple games taking place in the playground. However, one thing really tickled me. We were standing by a door, when all of a sudden, 20 or 30 children ran out of it and ran all the way round the playing field and straight back into their classroom. The head teacher told us that the school was using that physical activity as a way of stimulating the children. They might have got past the stage where they were learning anything in the classroom, so they needed to use a bit of energy and to express themselves in a different way. The head teacher told us that that small amount of physical activity ensured that the children were ready to learn as soon as they were back at their desks, which was tremendous. If such small activities can have a major benefit, a proper school sports programme can, too.
I am afraid that I could not resist the temptation to say that my hon. Friend raises that point only because he was jealous at not having the opportunity to join in. Is he aware of the scientific research—I do not think we considered it in our inquiry—that points to the link between physical activity, brain development and learning in the classroom? The head teacher was making the point, based on her experience, that physical activity clearly works, but the scientific evidence is there to back that up.
My hon. Friend makes a good point. I do not know about the issue in as much detail as he does, but that is certainly a contributory factor. I assure him that I was not that jealous, because having played squash into my mid-40s, I now have a knee that says, “You shouldn’t run round the school playground.”
If the price of competition is inclusion, we should perhaps rethink whether a new balance is needed in the national curriculum between competitive sport and other activities, perhaps taking additional measures to encourage and promote more competitive sport as an extra-curricular option. With that idea in mind, I welcome the school games, not only as a legacy of the London 2012 games, but as an additional channel to enable young people to participate competitively, should they wish to. It is important, however, to ensure that funding is secured for long-term sustainability, and to allow participation to grow beyond the 60% of schools currently taking part.
Continuing the theme of participation and inclusion, the Committee’s report examines in detail school sport partnerships and the impact that cuts to funding have had on sport provision in schools. We heard from Linda Cairns, a school sport co-ordinator at George Abbot school in Guildford, that the funding cuts have resulted in the system tailing off, and that there are only a handful of school sport co-ordinators left. That was backed up by evidence from the NASUWT showing that 48% of local authorities recorded a decline in the number of partnerships, while a further 28% had no functioning partnership in their area. When I questioned her further, Linda said that the upshot was a hole in local sport provision, and that communities and local authorities lacked
“somebody who can link primaries to secondaries and all schools to clubs and community sport”.
Without those important ties, the glue that held together a highly successful and internationally recognised model for school sport has all but disappeared.
I am in no doubt that that is a tragedy for school sport and for the future well-being and development of young people. I know from personal experience in the borough of Stockton that the partnerships work. They encourage greater uptake and promote wider sporting opportunities, and such participation leads to positive outcomes. More than that, however, the partnerships created a true link between secondary and primary schools. I saw young people working with much younger children, which gave them someone to look up to and even admire. When we visited east London, we saw older students acting as mentors to the young. I was extremely encouraged to see their relationship. The younger ones hung on every word that the older pupils said. In another school, we saw the Football Association in action, and the young people were captivated by their tutors.
It does not matter where Select Committees go on their visits—it can be Holland, Denmark, Singapore or Timbuktu—but we are always taken to see the best. We get to see the things that work well, and the best practice. Of course, we know that that expertise or high quality is not to be found in most places. However, although we did not see some of the poorer provision in the country, we took evidence about the impact of the partnerships’ demise, and that may have redressed the balance to an extent. Many witnesses lamented the loss, because the partnerships were successful. Several witnesses strongly put forward a view that was supported by Ofsted, which reported that the impact of partnerships in maximising participation and increasing regular competition
“was clearly evident in the vast majority of schools visited”.
The evidence that stands out in my mind came from triple-jump gold medallist Jonathan Edwards, who told the Committee that dismantling partnerships
“wasn’t well thought through and left many people feeling incredulous”.
There was also universal agreement that SSPs were an efficient way to ensure that all young people had wider opportunities to take part in school sport, and to enable expertise to be developed in school. I acknowledge that school sport partnerships were expensive, but they worked and achieved tremendous success.
The Government claim to have removed the requirement on schools to belong to partnerships, but not their ability to do so. That is technically true, but in reality, without funding, partnerships cannot continue. I hope that the Government will remain true to their word, and that they will closely monitor their approach. Successive Governments have tinkered with school sport and have not got stuck in to create a long-term approach. I hope that after analysis and evaluation the present Government will recognise the sustainable and lasting benefits brought by partnerships, and will correct their mistake by reinstating the funding. School sport partnerships are a true investment in the future, in every sense. The long-term benefits far outweigh the short-term costs, and the need for funding cuts is not reason enough to forgo the positive outcomes of happy, healthier and engaged young people.
I am pleased to speak under your chairmanship, Sir Alan.
As we all know, good-quality school sport is important: it can deliver improved education, health and social outcomes for the nation and individuals. School is the one place where everybody gets the opportunity to play sport and take part in physical activity, so it has an important role in the development of a lifelong sporting habit. The Education Committee wanted the inquiry because one of the aims of the London Olympics was to “inspire a generation”. The report was timed for the first anniversary of the London games. We also wanted to see whether the Government’s policy was achieving an increase in school sport; to scope the appropriateness of their plans for a school sport legacy from the games, and the likelihood of those plans being carried out; to assess the impact so far of London 2012 on the take-up of competitive sport in schools; and to assess what further measures should be taken to ensure a sustainable and effective legacy in school sport following London 2012.
The first change by the coalition Government was the announcement that the ring-fencing for school sport partnerships would end in March 2011, the rationale being that that would increase and encourage more competitive sport in schools. That brought quite a high level of disagreement from schools and, as a result, the Secretary of State announced an extension of the funding until August 2011. He also gave an extra £65 million to enable secondary PE teachers to spend a day a week assisting and supporting primary schools. In March 2013, the Government announced new ring-fenced funding of £150 million per annum for two years, for primary school sport. That, unusually, is funded from three Whitehall Departments—the Department for Education, the Department of Health and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Each primary school in England is getting approximately £9,250 per annum. That, as hon. Members will know, is called the primary sport premium. At the same time, as the hon. Member for Stockton North (Alex Cunningham) said, the Government announced a pilot in which 120 new primary teachers were trained this summer with a specialism in PE.
Those who championed the previous £2.5 billion programme of SSPs regarded them as part of the golden age of school sports and an excellent model for universal delivery—so much so that the right hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Dame Tessa Jowell) told us that they were admired and copied internationally. Jonathan Edwards told us that the removal of SSPs left many people feeling incredulous. There was almost universal agreement from all our witnesses that, where SSPs worked well, they were an incredibly effective way to ensure that all young people had wider opportunities to take part in school sport, and to enable expertise to be developed in schools. Even Ofsted, we heard, reported that SSPs were maximising participation and increasing regular competition.
Having said all the above, virtually every witness said that the new policy was exactly right to aim pump-priming money for school sports at primary schools, and that it was right to ring-fence the primary sport premium, ensuring that the money was spent on sport.
The biggest problem for the primary sports premium, as with SSPs, is that the money is not long term, and there is not a long-term strategy. As was said by the Chair of the Education Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart), the Committee strongly felt that now is the time to say, “No more political football with school sport.” Neither the previous nor the current Government seem to have had a long-term policy or strategy for school sports. In fact, the Minister said that he could not commit to any longer-term funding and would be “batting very hard” for further funds. The Committee believes that the £300 million funding for the primary sports premium could be important, but the risks associated with its being wasted if it is not put to effective use, long term, could lead to danger of its becoming a short-lived gimmick.
I need to mention special needs and disability sport, because London 2012 had the most successful Paralympic games in history. Baroness Grey-Thompson told us that mainstream schools had traditionally made it hard for disabled people to find competition activities, compete on a level playing field, and be included. Often they were sent to the school library during PE classes. We also learned that special schools were often better at delivering sports for disabled pupils, which was often down to both facilities and teacher training in mainstream schools.
Witnesses praised the school games highly as a means through which disabled young people could access competitive sporting opportunities. Some 14,000 disabled children took part in the games in the first year, but there was criticism, too, with some referral units or special schools unable to access funding to support the games beyond local level. It was nigh on impossible for pupils with particularly challenging behaviour to attend.
We took evidence on various subjects, ranging from whether the standard of two hours of PE per student per week in schools being scrapped was a good thing, to whether physical fitness should be a part of the new education, health and care plans. What were our conclusions and recommendations? Some have been mentioned, but there were 24 in all—some recommendations and some statements—and I shall mention just two, which are crucial to ensuring that we meet the ambitions of the London Olympics, crucial to the legacy of those games, and important for the health and well-being of our nation.
I shall talk about recommendations 4 and 10. On recommendation 4, school sport is too important for it to rely on occasional efforts at pump-priming. The Government must commit to a long-term vision for school sport, accompanied by long-term funding. We recommend that the Government set out a plan for the sustained support and development of their school sports policy, including measures to ensure a cross-departmental vision and effective working across all relevant Departments.
On recommendation 10, we said:
“We are concerned that the timeframe of the primary sport premium is not sufficient to allow a long-term provision to be built. It risks replicating previous short-term fixes rather than creating a long term solution. On its own,”
as we have heard,
“the primary sport premium is inadequate. If the Government is to secure a legacy from London 2012 and demonstrate its commitment to school sport, the primary sport premium must be embedded within a long-term strategy, with sustained funding.”
Of all our recommendations, those are the two key ones that need urgent attention, and that we need to embed for the long term; that would be an investment in the long-term well-being of our nation.
I will mention a number of comments, particularly by the hon. Member for Calder Valley (Craig Whittaker), who made some good points, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton North (Alex Cunningham) and the Select Committee Chair, the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart).
Hon. Members have mentioned Jonathan Edwards’ excellent account to the Committee, when we met him with two young athletes. He was clear about the wider benefits of sport, physical activity and participation. He drew our attention, in his concluding comment, to the health impact of taking part in sport. The wider benefits are as important, if not more so, as the benefits of taking part in sport, including competitive sport. That came out in the evidence of a number of witnesses.
This was an inquiry about school sports and the Olympic legacy, so we asked questions about the legacy, too. Jonathan Edwards drew our attention to the fact that Pierre de Coubertin, when setting up the modern Olympic movement, visited this country because he was impressed with the way that sport was integrated throughout the education system and that we demonstrated the principle of a healthy mind in a healthy body. In the 19th century, the principle of the value of sport and education was well established in this country. It is instructive that there is nothing new in some of the things that we discuss today about the origins of sport and its role in school, and the evidence of what constitutes good practice.
The hon. Member for Calder Valley demonstrated the value of the primary sport premium’s being brought together with funding from three Departments. We heard in evidence just how hard that has been historically. [Interruption.] The Minister is reacting as if I may be on to something here. It has been hard, historically, to get Ministers from different Departments together to discuss issues where there is a crossover. The way that Whitehall and Government work often makes such things far more difficult than they should be. The Government deserve some praise for achieving that success.
As hon. Members said, we heard a passionate defence of school sport partnerships from pretty much every witness. My authority in Sefton had a well organised school sport partnerships model, with the secondary schools providing the support, expertise, co-ordination and enthusiasm to include the primary schools. The engagement of children in primary schools in Sefton was exceptionally good, while the school sport partnership model survived. I am afraid that it is a different story today, although it has been instructive to listen to teachers and others involved in making the best of the primary sports premium money, and to see how they are achieving that, to a greater or lesser degree.
It is fair to say—I will return to this point—that there is some patchy evidence. There are some good and not so good examples of what is happening already with the primary money that is available. I agree that, in times of financial restraint, primary is the place to invest limited amounts of money. However, I regret—this point was made in evidence—that the successful model had to be completely dismantled first and that there was this gap. A number of schemes have been completely stopped and then, some two or three years later, the Government have brought back a reduced level of investment. Building Schools for the Future is another example, in the education sector, of a programme’s complete cancellation and a later investment in school building.
The reason given for the cancellation of the school sport partnerships was largely about the high level of investment; we heard the figure of £2.5 billion just now. However, if the criticism is that it was too much money, why was a reduced level of investment not maintained, given the success that had been achieved? I hope that some of those successes will be re-instigated by the new programme.
When we went to Curwen primary school in east London, we heard evidence about some of the challenges of the new model. The head teacher there told us how he had been inundated with calls from commercial suppliers wanting him to spend money on their coaching programmes. He adequately analysed how that would be unsuitable, because the money was just not going to last long, and there was no co-ordinated approach. What he was after was advice, guidance, support and some kind of co-ordination, as we had with SSPs, to make the most of the money.
I have heard similar things in my own authority regarding some the ways in which the money might be spent. I am afraid that some schools are using the money in that way, and the money will not be as effective as it might be. I understand that the Government are keen to allow schools to make their own decisions and to provide them with the autonomy to do so. However, I urge the Minister to ensure that guidance and co-ordination are a way not only of getting good value for money, but of making the best of the programme to the benefit of the children who are supposed to benefit.
The hon. Member for Calder Valley mentioned education, health and care plans. The report indicates that physical activity should be part of that, which was a comment made to us by Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson. That is an important point for disabled children, and I am glad that the hon. Gentleman raised it.
Regarding long-term funding, I do not know whether hon. Members have missed this, but the Chancellor has today announced an extension of the funding for a further year to 2016. That is of course to be welcomed, but it does not get past our recommendation that funding should be on a long-term, sustainable basis, which we need to move on to.
The issue is not just about primary schools. While primaries are the right place in which to put investment when one does not have much money, we need to create a culture. That comes back to physical literacy, which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness. If we want to create a culture where people engage in sport of one sort or another and are physically active, to the benefit of their health, their brain development, their academic study, which is evidenced as well, their behaviour, their concentration and the self-confidence that comes from physical activity, we need to look at a longer-term strategy, whether that means additional money or linking with the way in which the primary school partnership system works.
The programme cannot end at 11. I know that secondary schools have greater resources and that school sport is well established in secondary, but somehow there needs to be a link, some co-ordination, a long-term approach and a correctly balanced combination of physical activity and sport. As someone who still does a lot of competitive sport—or tries to; that is probably the right way to put it these days—I am passionate about the role of competitive sport. However, I recognise that, for a lot of people, it is not the be all and end all. It does not excite them; in fact it can be quite off-putting. Nevertheless, if we want people to be physically active, our effort should not end in secondary school, but continue into further education, higher education and the world of work. We need to look at our longer-term culture. That links back to the Olympics legacy. I hope that that is where the policy could end up. As a result of the report, that is very much an opportunity. The Youth Sport Trust said in its evidence that physical activity goes much wider than participation in competitive sport. That point is well made, but I understand the emphasis on competitive sport.
Again, the report was about the Olympic legacy. I agree that we want to see our high fliers achieving. We had a fantastic Olympics. If we can maintain that at Rio and beyond, in terms of Olympic and Paralympic medals, who knows? We might even retain the Ashes—we can but hope—and go to the World cup having discovered some new players who can do reasonably well. That is the pinnacle of sport. That is the pinnacle of what we are trying to achieve. It makes a huge contribution to our national success, but it is about everyone, and it is important to have an inclusive approach.
We heard about teenage girls’ reluctance to take part in competitive sport. They are not the only group who are reluctant, but it is of particular concern. I forget which witness it was—it was probably more than one witness—but they talked about involving teenage girls in some kind of physical activity, where they realise that they can take part and that it is not the end of the world if they have a hair out of place; I have to be careful, because my daughter would have me in a lot of trouble if I say the wrong thing. There are opportunities, and I think the evidence is that once teenage girls get involved in some kind of physical activity, they go on to participate in more and more, including competitive sport. I hope that our evidence about girls in sport will be considered.
I have mentioned the other benefits, including benefits to health and school work. Those are incredibly important. If we are looking to improve education attainment, school work and a child’s life chances, the value of physical activity is not just a value in itself, incredibly important though that is. If we want successful young people, the importance of physical activity and of sport should not be underestimated. We saw evidence on our visits and we heard evidence in some of the sessions of how important that is for many young people, who otherwise can be excluded. However, once they get involved and find something that they enjoy doing, the benefits for them in other parts of their lives and studies are second to none.
The report is excellent. It was one of the best inquiries I have been involved in since I have been here. It tied into many other issues, not least performance in school and qualifications. All the recommendations are worth looking at.
One point that came out, which other hon. Members have touched on, was the lack of PE training for primary teachers. The work force issue is important. I remember hearing from one of the witnesses that many teachers go into primary deliberately because they do not like sport. That is the reality in the primary sector. Therefore, support for PE teachers is incredibly important. If the money can be used for anything, perhaps it should be on that support. Again, at Curwen primary, we saw the way in which the FA went in to create self-sufficiency by producing a skills programme and trained the teachers to run it over a longer time. I encourage the Minister to consider how that money could be used to create self-sufficiency, so that the importance of physical activity and sport in primary schools is well understood and teachers in the primary sector are in a position to deliver on the report’s recommendations. I know the Government would like to see that.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship for the first time, Sir Alan.
I congratulate the Select Committee on its excellent investigation into school sport. The report is important. It is very sad that we are having this debate. The Chair of the Select Committee, the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart), set out the case powerfully, and I pay tribute to him for his comments. There was a great festival of sport in 2012. After winning the bid in 2005, we talked a great deal about the need to build a legacy by using the opportunity to inspire a generation. Sadly, the foundation on which we should have been inspiring that generation—the structure through which we delivered school sport—was taken away. I commend the Select Committee on what it has done.
Modesty forbids me from commending the report published by the Smith Institute, which the Chair mentioned, because I edited it and wrote the foreword. A number of eminent people wrote essays in the report on how we should structure the future of school and community sport to try to put right what has clearly gone horribly wrong.
We have heard from my hon. Friends the Members for Stockton North (Alex Cunningham) and for Sefton Central (Bill Esterson), and from the hon. Member for Calder Valley (Craig Whittaker), and there is broad consensus that school sport partnerships worked, that wider benefits come from people being involved in sport, and that there is a need for a long-term, coherent plan to take us forward on sports. That consensus is evident in the report and in the comments made today. It is worth considering the history, because the Government’s thinking has been inconsistent for some time.
School sport partnerships were a characteristically very expensive and temporary arrangement by the previous Government, so it is not as if this Government have dismantled a long-term vision and framework. We have moved from one expensive and patchy system to another. Successive Governments have failed to provide the long-term framework and vision that we need.
I am reluctant to differ with the hon. Gentleman, but school sport partnerships were in place for some time and had a major effect on participation in sport. I would accept his point if we had moved smoothly from one system to the other, but that is not what happened.
Prior to the general election, the then shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, the right hon. Member for South West Surrey (Mr Hunt), who is now Health Secretary, and the then shadow Sports Minister, the right hon. Member for Faversham and Mid Kent (Hugh Robertson), produced a document, “Extending Opportunities: A Conservative policy paper on sport.” Two things were mentioned in relation to school sports. First:
“The school environment provides the majority of children with their first experiences of sport. This experience is likely to govern their approach to sport for the rest of their lives.”
The document goes on to address the contribution of school sport partnerships. On the same page, the document states that the Conservative party would:
“Re-examine Building Schools for the Future to see how sports provision can be enhanced.”
I mention that document because the sad thing is that as soon as the Government came into office, both Building Schools for the Future, which, as the document recognises, improved school facilities, and the funding for school sport partnerships were taken away. That announcement was made in October 2010, and it was almost the kiss of death for two key elements of delivering sport in our schools. There is no doubt that Building Schools for the Future improved facilities in our schools; we could have used it to build a framework for delivering excellent sport provision, both competitive and non-competitive, in our schools. There was inconsistency between what the Government said before the election, and what they did after it.
It is also worth setting out what the school sport partnerships achieved, because in 2002 the PE and school sport survey highlighted that only one child in four was doing two hours of PE a week. Under the school sport partnerships, by 2007-08, the figure had increased to 90%. In fact, the success of school sport partnerships led in that year to steps being taken to introduce a target of three hours of PE a week, and the five-hour commitment meant that almost 55% of children were doing at least three hours of PE a week and were moving towards the five-hour commitment.
We set very challenging, but achievable, targets as a measure of our ambition. We wanted to get 2 million more people active and, by 2012, we wanted 60% of children to do five hours of PE a week during curriculum time and after school. Before the election, the then shadow Sports Minister said on Radio 5 Live that he thought it would be wrong to dismantle school sport partnerships after 13 years of work, and that his party would build on the partnerships. The Conservative party’s “Sport in schools” policy briefing note stated that schools would be
“free to enter as many or as few sports as they want, and there would be preliminary city and county heats, perhaps using the School Sport Partnerships infrastructure”.
Again, we see what the party went on to do.
The Conservative policy also states:
“We will also publish data about schools’ sports facilities and their provision of competitive sporting opportunities”.
In opposition, the Conservative party committed to introducing competitive sport in schools and went on and did it. The current Government built on the school games introduced by the previous Government, which is an excellent example of what can be achieved for sport in our schools, and I support what they have achieved, but as has been pointed out, the funding has a limited time scale, which makes me question whether it will exist in the long term. A consistent criticism—of both the previous and current Governments, I grant—is that what we need is some form of long-term planning. If the Government are to produce figures for participation in competitive sport, surely it follows that they should provide statistics on non-competitive sport, too, so that parents may have a clear idea of exactly what they can expect from physical and recreational activity provided to their children at school.
In 2010, money was taken away from the school sport partnerships with no consultation and no planning whatever. We have heard what Jonathan Edwards thought about that, and at the time many others were highly critical of what the Secretary of State for Education did without considering the consequences or putting anything else in place. That is a key point. The Secretary of State wrote to Baroness Campbell of Loughborough:
“I can confirm therefore that the Department will not continue to provide ring-fenced funding for school sport partnerships. I am also announcing that the Department is lifting, immediately, the many requirements of the previous Government's PE and Sport Strategy, so giving schools the clarity and freedom to concentrate on competitive school sport.”
He continued with a list:
“I am removing the need for schools to:
Plan and implement their part of a ‘five hour offer’”—
so the five-hour offer was off the agenda—
“Collect information about every pupil for an annual survey;”—
so we had no idea what was going on in schools—
“Deliver a range of new Government sport initiatives each year;”—
if we are trying to get uniformity of delivery across schools, why would one want that?—and
“Report termly to the Youth Sport Trust on various performance indicators”.
I might actually sympathise with that last one, because the Youth Sport Trust was heavy on data collection, but that does not justify the Government taking away all its funding and that of school sport partnerships in the way that they did. Everyone has said that the partnerships were a foundation on which we could have built. If things were wrong, we could have altered or reformed them to make them more effective.
On my hon. Friend’s point about reform, it would have been a good idea—it is still possible—to measure how effective the programmes or projects were. That is what should have happened. Given that we are where we are, does he agree that we need to measure the effectiveness of the primary school sports premium? It is a long-term project, so it is important that the data have value.
The Government have said that the scheme will be externally evaluated, and I would like to hear how that will be done, and what will be looked at.
This point goes back to the intervention from the Chair of the Education Committee. Following the Secretary of State’s announcement, and the decision to take money away from school sport partnerships on a whim, there was a hue and cry from people involved in sport and school sport in particular. If you check Hansard, Sir Alan, you will find that I was one of those angry people. I am sure that a sense of how shocked and angry I was at the sudden announcement just leaps out of the page. The Secretary of State was forced to come back to Parliament to make another announcement, in which he reinstated £65 million—£32.5 million a year for two years—for PE teacher release, whereby teachers would be released for a day a week to co-ordinate sports in their area. Through a series of freedom of information requests, I found out that that funding was resulting in 60% less time being spent organising school sport than was spent by school sport co-ordinators under school sport partnerships. Despite attempts to back-fill the hole, the damage had been done. There was a significant reduction in the amount of time being spent organising sport outside the classroom.
In addition—it really is a sorry pattern—the Government have watered down protections for school playing fields in the national planning framework. Schools are no longer required to provide a specified amount of playing field space; they merely have to provide suitable outdoor space. It also beggars belief that free schools can open up with absolutely no sport provision whatever. That cannot be right and is not consistent with the actions of a Government who value school sport and consider it deserving of higher priority in the curriculum. In August 2012, the Government abolished the two-hour target; without any means of monitoring what is going on, it is difficult to judge what the implications have been.
The announcement of the £150 million scheme was welcome, but as I pointed out to the Chair of the Education Committee, it came after the dismantling of the structures put in place for school sport. The emphasis on primary schools has been welcomed, and I echo that to some degree, and will return to the subject. The funding is ring-fenced, which is another U-turn, because we have been told that ring-fencing was out of favour under this Government, and that schools should use money as they wish. How will the Government monitor the scheme? We welcome the specialist PE training of 120 primary teachers, but it is a drop in the ocean across 17,000 primary schools. There are also questions about Ofsted’s capability. Can we be sure that Ofsted personnel are properly trained and equipped to evaluate what is going on? The issue is not just the two hours, but what happens during those two hours. We want to ensure that school sport is evaluated in the right way.
When the Government announced the school games, which I welcome, it was an excuse to cover up the loss of school sport partnerships. That was an attack on people who value increasing participation. In a blog on the “ConservativeHome” website in 2011, the then Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, the right hon. Member for South West Surrey, said that the Government were
“banishing once and for all the left-wing orthodoxy that promotes ‘prizes for all’ and derides competition”.
That is a classic example of accusing one’s opponent of being in favour of something and then abolishing it. The previous Government introduced school games and certainly were not at all opposed to competitive sport. In fact, we said that where people were motivated, and wanted to excel and to participate in competitive sport, they should be able to do so. School sport partnerships were successful at increasing participation in competitive sport.
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right, but only to a point. It was clear from evidence heard by the Education Committee that where school sport partnerships worked well, they worked very well, but they did not work well in many areas. Another piece of evidence made it clear that, given the £2.5 billion cost, they were perhaps not the most effective way of spending the money.
Rolling up all the money to £2.5 billion makes the programme sound very expensive. It was actually £162 million a year, and this Government have put £150 million into the primary school sports premium. I do accept, however, that school sport partnerships did not work so well in some areas, but that does not justify getting rid of the whole scheme. They were a good foundation on which we should have been building.
I must start to draw my comments to a close. In the Government’s response to the Education Committee’s point about competitive sport, I notice that they mention dance as an activity that they want to be encouraged in schools. I assume that that means that there is a difference of opinion with the Prime Minister, who was being critical when he said that the
“two hours that is laid down is often met through sort of Indian dancing classes.”
I assume that that policy is no longer being followed.
I will conclude, because I want to give the Minister a fair go at coming back at me. I think that I have been going for nearly 20 minutes, Sir Alan—the speech timer seems to have stopped.
What do we want in the future? What are we looking for? I welcome the point about core physical literacy and the investment in primary schools. Investment in specialist teaching in primary schools is not to replace PE, but in addition to it. We must not have teachers feeling that they have somehow abdicated responsibility for teaching PE because that money is going into our primary schools. It is important for PE to be part of the curriculum, and I support the Select Committee recommendation that teacher training be altered to cover that. We also want co-ordinators for PE in every primary school, as we have for maths and literacy, so that it has similar status, and so that someone takes responsibility for ensuring not only that a decent amount of PE is taught—we would restore the two-hour minimum requirement—but that it is taught at a decent standard.
On physical literacy, we need to get it right from day one, which means starting when children are at pre-school. We need to talk to carers, parents and the health service—health visitors and such people—to ensure that everyone understands that developing core physical literacy from day one is important. From an early age, if children feel inadequate, they may start to use avoidance tactics, so that they do not get into a situation in which they feel challenged, and we see that behaviour in relation to physical activity. It is therefore important that we encourage everyone to instil the idea of physical activity in the right way, and that we develop physical literacy and core physical strength in children from the earliest age.
I support the primary premium money, so that children, in particular at key stage 2, get the broadest experience of as vast a range of sports as we can achieve at that stage of their education. When they go to secondary school, they can then make informed choices about the sports and physical activities that they might want to get involved in. I agree with points made earlier: this is not only about competition. It has to be about getting people active and instilling that habit in them for a lifetime.
We need long-term planning. I have been all over the country, talking to people involved at all levels of sport, including PE teachers and co-ordinators, and they want long-term planning from Government. They also want politicians to co-operate with one another. I would welcome the opportunity to sit down and talk across Government about a long-term plan for sport and recreational activity in our schools and communities, so that we can give people the consistency and therefore the confidence to plan ahead for the sorts of sports that they are delivering in their communities. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Alan. Before I move into the body of my contribution to the debate, I take the opportunity to thank the hon. Member for Eltham (Clive Efford) for his closing remarks. I was a little worried, when he was about seven eighths of the way through his speech, that we were not going to hear his views of and visions for the future. He is hugely passionate about this subject—
The hon. Gentleman has written books about the subject and spoken at length about it, so to hear him say that he wants to find a way in which we can demonstrate a cross-party, co-ordinated response to an issue that we both have such passion for is music to my ears. I hope that this is the dawn of a new approach to what should, fundamentally, not be a political football, as the Select Committee indicated in the title of its report. I hugely welcome his closing remarks.
Some excellent points have been made in the debate by both Government and Opposition Members, in particular those on the Select Committee itself. I add my thanks to the Committee and its Chair, my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart), for their report, which offers an informative analysis of the provision of PE and sport in schools, as well as a good and interesting range of suggestions as to how we can make further improvements. The Government response to the report, published on 16 October, provided a clear understanding of our recognition of the wide range of benefits from sport—as the hon. Member for Sefton Central (Bill Esterson) also identified—which can be ensured by children taking part in physical activity and sport from an early age.
I know from my own love of sport and how it has helped to widen my opportunities that we must be committed to ensuring that all children and young people have the opportunity to lead healthy, active lifestyles, to participate in sport and physical activity both in and outside school and to compete against their peers. We are clear that improving PE and sport provision in schools is a top priority—I think that I said that five times in the first eight minutes of my evidence to the Committee.
We can all agree, as the Chair of the Committee said in his excellent opening contribution, that the 2012 Olympics were an inspiration to the whole country and something of which we can be hugely proud. We must have a determined and consensual commitment, as far as we can, to secure a lasting legacy for children and young people.
Our overarching strategy covers a wide range of areas, designed to provide significant long-term benefits derived from instilling an early enthusiasm for sport and physical activity. There was agreement during the debate that we have to get in early, as with many other aspects of children’s lives. I was interested in the points made by the hon. Member for Eltham about pre-school, as well as where else in and around the school environment we could improve opportunity and participation. In due course, it will be good to hear his views on extending the school day or the role of schools in providing a wider range of opportunities before the compulsory school age, to see whether they are ways in which we could help to improve access to sport and PE.
Absolutely. As in other areas of a child’s life—internet safety, for example—parental involvement and responsibility have to form part of the solution, so that whether children are in or out of school they get the same message. We have heard about some recent cases of over-exuberance among parents on the touchline, when perhaps they have taken that responsibility a little too far, but we want to see parents more involved in holding schools to account, as well as in helping the schools to deliver sport and PE, so that their children get the best opportunities.
That is one of the reasons why, as part of the sport premium, schools have to publish on their website how they are spending it and what impact it is having, so that parents can see for themselves, form judgments and ask questions about whether it is doing what it set out to do. In answer to another question from the hon. Member for Eltham, that would include competitive and non-competitive sport in that school—it is not only competitive sport that will be part of that transparency.
To dwell on the history is always an interesting exercise when discussing school sport. I do not wish to chastise the hon. Gentleman for wanting to return to many of those issues, but it would be healthier for our children if we concentrated on the future and on where we can find joint enterprise to build on some fantastic work being done out there, spreading it more widely and making it more sustainable. That is why the cornerstone of our approach is the focus on improving provision in primary schools. I welcome the broad support for that both in this debate and more widely. Since September 2012, I have, with officials in the Department, spent a lot of time talking to head teachers, national governing bodies, Youth Sport Trust, Sport England, the Association for Physical Education and others, so as to understand where the money could have the greatest impact. The overwhelming consensus was that we should channel our energies towards the primary level.
That is why from autumn this year primary head teachers across the country have started to receive additional funding to improve the provision of PE and sport in their schools. The money is ring-fenced. The hon. Member for Eltham said that the Government’s philosophy is to give head teachers the freedom to spend money in the way they think is best for their pupils. This additional funding fulfils that objective, but the ring-fencing makes it clear how high a priority we place on ensuring that PE and sport in schools is of the highest possible calibre.
That is backed up by the fact that PE and sports provision is and will continue to be inspected by Ofsted, which is briefing all its inspectors on how to do that. There have also been changes to the school inspection handbook. I have seen for myself some of the section 5 inspection reports, in which far more prominence is already being given to the evaluation of how the school sport premium is being spent. I saw a report for a primary school in my own constituency that has clubbed together with other schools to bring in a full-time specialist PE teacher. The teacher spends one day a week in each of the four primary schools and on the fifth day goes to those pupils who need extra catch-up so that they can get to the level we all want to see.
My hon. Friend the Member for Calder Valley (Craig Whittaker) reminded us that the head teacher of a typical primary school will receive £9,250 to spend on sport provision between now and the summer term. The hon. Member for Sefton Central astutely observed that the premium has now been extended in the autumn statement to a third year, to include 2015-16. I do not for a minute want to suggest that my hon. Friend the Chairman of the Education Committee has not had his eye on the ball: to be absolutely fair to him, he attended the previous debate in this Chamber and the extension is in paragraph 2.164 of the autumn statement, so he is forgiven for failing on this occasion to have spotted such a hugely important announcement.
That announcement is an unequivocal demonstration of the importance that we attach to the embedding of school sport and PE in children’s lives. I am happy to repeat what I told the Select Committee: I want to keep pushing the issue within Government. Although it is often one of the most difficult exercises across Government, an important aspect of the cross-Government strategy on the issue has been pulling in funding and ongoing commitment from three Departments. I chair a regular ministerial group on school sport, which includes Youth Sport Trust, Sport England, the Association for Physical Education, Ofsted and others. There continues to be a joint commitment on funding and other resources.
That is an excellent point. We can see that in the evolving role of health and wellbeing boards and the development of joint strategic needs assessments across each local authority, with the greater responsibilities local authorities now have for the physical as well as mental health of their local population. To build on the remarks of the hon. Member for Sefton Central on education, health and care plans and also children with special education needs and the requirement to improve access to sport for disabled children, we have a real opportunity to push those issues up the agenda at a local level, so that there is a clear objective coming from national Government across a number of Departments that is replicated at local level. The county sports partnerships will be an important conduit for providing information, data and advice as to how we can best achieve that aim.
Some concerns have been raised about some of the new providers coming into the market and schools must be able to access the information they need to spend the sport premium in the best way. I acknowledge that, and we have been at pains to set out on the Department for Education’s gov.uk website a host of best practice examples of schools that already have superb ways of embedding sport in their schools, including ones that work particularly with girls and with disabled children. I visited the Marjorie McClure specialist school in Bromley to see how the Project Ability programme that we support in about 50 special schools is making a discernible difference to the quality and outcomes of the education of young people with disabilities. The Youth Sport Trust and the Association for Physical Education have provided excellent practical guidance to primary schools so that they can learn to use the money as effectively as possible.
As the hon. Member for Eltham pointed out, we are independently evaluating the impact of the premium, and Ofsted is also doing some work on that. We are tracking 40 schools all the way through, and about another 700 will be visited and evaluated. I hope that by next summer we will have a stronger evidence base for school performance. The continued involvement of Ofsted is a key way of changing behaviour and culture on the ground. The work we are doing on initial teacher training and on bringing in high-quality specialist PE teachers—I have seen their calibre for myself—is extremely encouraging. It is only a pilot at this stage but gives us a model that we can look to spread more widely across primary schools.
I acknowledge that the issue affects not just primary but secondary schools. That is why the £1 billion youth sports strategy from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is so important. A satellite club will be set up in every secondary school, and there will be large investment in facilities. It was also announced today that DCMS is putting in an extra £18 million to improve facilities in primary schools that have a particular need to enhance their sports facilities. Those schools are predominantly in inner-city areas, but there are also other parts of the country where schools simply do not have the outdoor space they need. That programme will run from next year, and some of the facilities will be in place by next summer. That welcome move has come about from the co-ordination of efforts by Departments to establish where there are still gaps in provision across the country.
I acknowledge that there is still a lot of work to do and that everyone wants the premium to become a sustained model. That is our objective and my commitment to it remains strong: in these straitened times, this important investment must make a difference not only in the next three years but beyond that. I welcome any support that the Opposition bring to bear so that we get the best for our children.
This has been a great debate and an unusual one. We have ended with the Minister stating that he wants the model of the primary sport premium to be sustained as the Government’s objective. The Opposition spokesman has offered to work with the Minister, and the Minister has said how much he would welcome that—exactly the message that people involved in sport want to hear. We all collectively look forward to seeing a long-term approach to sport in our schools that turns around our children’s lives and ensures that the next generation is healthier, rather than less healthy, than the one that went before.
Question put and agreed to.