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Schools: Cricket

Volume 712: debated on Thursday 16 July 2009

Question

Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress is being made in developing cricket in state schools, particularly through the Chance to Shine initiative.

My Lords, the Government are increasing participation in PE and sport in schools, including cricket. In 2008, 90 per cent of pupils did two hours of high-quality PE and sport each week, up from 62 per cent in 2004. Over the same period, the percentage of schools providing cricket for their pupils has risen from 85 per cent to 90 per cent. We recognise that Chance to Shine does a great job. Last year it delivered 20,000 sessions to 2,000 schools in the country.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that response. Will she join me in congratulating the England women’s cricket team on their enormous success in the World Cup, in the 20/20 and in beating Australia? Will she say what impact the Chance to Shine initiative has had on girls’ sport?

My Lords, I am delighted to join my noble friend in congratulating Charlotte Edwards and the England women’s cricket team on the tremendous success that they have had, not only in winning the World Cup but in the 20/20 and in retaining the Ashes. We must all be proud of that. It has a cascading effect on girls’ cricket, and we should be proud that the England women’s team members are actively involved through Chance to Shine in encouraging schools, particularly girls, to get involved in cricket.

My Lords, the Minister has just mentioned the words “cascading effect”. Does she accept that there is a correlation between the lack of school playing fields and the rise in youth crime? If not, why not?

My Lords, I am disappointed that we should kick off this celebration of cricket in England and Wales and our success by concentrating on what I consider to be an out-of-date debate about playing fields. We have taken steps to ensure that we have the toughest ever measures to prevent the sale of school playing fields. Where a playing field is sold, we have set up measures to ensure that any proceeds of that sale are ploughed into investments in school sport. That is something that this Government have made an important priority.

My Lords, I declare an interest as a member of the England and Wales Cricket Board. What government funds, if any, are available to expand the Chance to Shine project in getting cricket played in a majority of our state schools?

My Lords, I am delighted that we will continue to support Chance to Shine. Over the past three years we have invested £5 million in the Chance to Shine programme and, as I understand it, the allocation from Government now is £7.5 million over the next four years. We are committed to supporting Chance to Shine and working in partnership with it.

My Lords, does Chance to Shine have the best model for making sure that people carry on playing cricket after they finish school? If not, will the Government be looking to other schemes and other sports that have other models? Any effort that goes into school sport that does not mean that people carry on is basically half-wasted.

My Lords, I completely agree with the noble Lord. I would add that whether in cricket, in rugby or in other sports, the connection between schools and the club network in this country is important. That is why we are investing in ensuring that those partnerships exist. For example, 45 per cent of schools in 2004 had partnerships with cricket clubs and we have seen that rise to 57 per cent, an important increase. Chance to Shine is an extremely good model, although there are important lessons to learn from other sports too.

My Lords, I declare an interest: I have a 10-year involvement with the International Cricket Council. Does the Minister agree that cricket is a force for good throughout the world? Particularly in some of the most troubled areas such as Afghanistan, cricket brings together people from across cultural and religious divides. It is to be encouraged in our schools and in schools throughout the world.

My Lords, would the Minister care to compliment Cardiff on hosting the Ashes for the first time ever, very successfully?

My Lords, of course, I would dearly love to take the opportunity to compliment Cardiff. I also remind noble Lords that when we talk about England, we are talking about the England and Wales Cricket Board, and when we talk about the achievements of the England women’s team we must remember that we are talking about the achievements of Welsh women, too—for example, Hannah Lloyd from Neath, who is a member of the women’s cricket team.

My Lords, I am glad that my noble friend has acknowledged the role that cricket clubs play in collaborating with schools in Chance to Shine. As president of Adlington Cricket Club, I know that every Friday there are 100 to 150 children practising with three coaches. That is an example, but many other cricket clubs provide similar facilities, which is an encouragement to the youngsters, and I hope that they will carry on playing after they have left school.

My Lords, I agree with my noble friend’s comments. It is extremely important that we recognise that, since the Government launched our school sports strategy, we have transformed the sport terrain in this country. Between 1997 and 2000 we had a very small proportion of children—25 per cent—doing two hours of sport a week. Now that has increased substantially, and we are taking it further. We are linking schools with clubs and making sure that children and young people develop a habit of a lifetime—and, as we can see in this House, cricket really is the habit of a lifetime.