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Schools: Physical Education

Volume 726: debated on Wednesday 30 March 2011


Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the quality and quantity of physical education in schools.

My Lords, Ofsted’s report Physical education in schools 2005/2008 found that the overall quality of teaching in physical education was good or better in two-thirds of the schools visited, although it was more variable in primary schools. The PE and Sport Survey 2009/10 found that 84 per cent of pupils aged five to 16 participated in at least two hours of physical education per week in curriculum time.

Sorry, I thank my noble friend for that Answer.

Will the Minister give me an assurance that the Government will look at whether the type of education is of sufficiently high quality to allow people in schools to access school-age sport outside? Making a link with amateur clubs is probably the best way of keeping people involved in sporting activity after the age of compulsory schooling.

I agree with my noble friend. I know that there is research by Sport England that shows that, as one would expect, the earlier that children get involved with sports outside school thorough clubs, the more likely they are to carry on participating after they leave, and that most children, when they leave school, stop participating in an organised way. Sport England is working with the governing bodies of, I think, 34 of the national sports bodies to try to find ways of building links between school and junior clubs and to increase the number of participants going into junior clubs. More generally, I agree with my noble friend that we need to try to make that transition better so that children can carry on into adulthood and get the benefit of sport.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that what he has just said is particularly relevant to girls and women who play sport? Are there particular initiatives in schools to encourage girls, particularly at an early age, to take up sport?

As the noble Baroness, Lady Massey of Darwen, will know, our general approach is to encourage schools to take responsibility for encouraging sport in school. I take her point about the importance of this particularly for girls. We have discussed before that when one is talking about sport and physical activity in schools, it is important to realise that for a range of children, maybe girls particularly, traditional competitive sport and team games are not necessarily what is going to inspire every child. However, I take the noble Baroness’s point that it is important that we ensure that provision is there for all children of both sexes, particularly children with special education needs, to ensure that they get the chance to take part as well.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Addington for tabling this Question, not Answer. He and I jointly declare an interest because we are both such finely tuned athletes. [Laughter] Well, I am; I do not know about the noble Lord.

My hope is that the quantity and quality assessment of schools physical education is relevant and ties in, first, with the Department for Education’s announced £65 million worth of funding, for two school years from 2011 to 2013, to release secondary school physical education teachers to organise competitive sports and train primary school teachers; and, secondly, with Sport England’s—

My question to the Minister is: will he assure the House that there will be a clear pathway for schoolchildren from mass participation in physical education to competitive team sports so that we get value for money in this process?

My Lords, I am not sure I can attest to the state of the physical tuning of the noble Lord, Lord Addington, but I know he is extremely knowledgeable about the whole area of sport. I have a fancy that he may have played rugby at some point in the past, so there may be others who can attest to his physical force. On the questions raised by my noble friend, I very much agree that it is important that there is an emphasis on competitive sport. One of the hopes is that, through the school games that are being organised on the back of the fantastic opportunity provided by the Olympic and Paralympic Games, there will be an opportunity to get more competitive sport into schools. I very much agree with my noble friend.

Is the Minister aware that a number of schools are still locking up their playing fields at 4 pm, when children in the area want to use them after school hours?

The general point made by the noble Lord is a good one. If he knows of particular cases, I would be happy to talk to him about them. Generally, I am also aware that many schools are particularly good at making their sports facilities available outside school hours to the community more generally—not just to the schoolchildren. The more that those facilities can be shared in that way, and the more that children get the chance outside school hours to participate in the way that the noble Lord suggests, the better.

My noble friend the Minister will be aware that in deprived communities there are often children who show real talent in specialised sport, and find it very difficult to access county and team clubs because of the cost of travel and so on. Will the Minister look at ways in which we might support those young people in developing their talents further?

I take the point about the need to make sure that there are opportunities for talented children, particularly those from deprived backgrounds. I know that the noble Lord speaks with great authority from his own school. I would be very happy to talk to him about any ideas he might have.

Having just come off a tennis court, I make no claims to being as well tuned as two of the previous speakers. How will the Minister ensure that all these things will happen unless we have properly trained teachers? That is my concern. Where is the quality of training as people come into the teaching profession? We need it in both primary and secondary schools.

I very much agree about the importance of training, whether it is for PE or a whole range of other areas. One of the ways in which the money that the Government have put in will help is by paying for PE teachers from secondary schools to spend a day a week out of school, perhaps working particularly with primary schools to embed best practice there as well.