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Children: Sport

Volume 749: debated on Tuesday 12 November 2013

Question for Short Debate

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to encourage children from the inner cities to take up sports.

My Lords, may I first ask permission from the Committee to remain seated while I introduce this debate? I am suffering not, as it might have been formerly, from a bash on the head from a hockey or cricket ball but from an unforgiving pavement in New York.

I am pleased to have secured this debate and I thank those noble Lords who are taking part, some of them former, and possibly currently, outstanding sportsmen and women, for sharing their expertise and, no doubt, their concerns that the UK must maintain a vigorous approach to fostering young people’s participation in sport.

First, let me say that I do not define sport as simply competitive sport, although that is important. Sport is also about health-related fitness, which may include walking, cycling, gym work, swimming, dance, yoga, pilates and so on. Secondly, I do not wish to confine my remarks and concerns to school sport, although I do have concerns about that. Sporting chances in the inner city may be provided by outreach from clubs who play rugby and soccer, for example, and in communities where dedicated parents and other adults encourage young people to do sport. There is good evidence that an active lifestyle can improve academic performance and health, and that working in a group or team can foster co-operative learning and endeavour. There is also good evidence that taking part in sport can help to cut down crime and fight negative, anti-social behaviour.

However, I begin with school sport, which is where many children begin to take part in sports, particularly those from the inner cities. To have opportunities to deliver sports programmes there must be a structure, particularly in the inner cities. Will this Government restore fully the school sports partnerships structure? I am aware that David Cameron has promised £150 million to cover all of England’s 17,000 primary schools, which is about £8,823 a year each. Why was this money not used to guarantee the school sports partnerships, which worked so well at a cost of £162 million a year? Those partnerships were developed under a Labour Government to rebuild sport in state schools. That £162 million funded specialist schools sport co-ordinators for two days a week and there were 450 such partnerships, reaching across all schools. The results were that, in 2009-10, more than 90% of pupils had two hours of PE a week and that 78% took part in competitive sport.

Ofsted noted that:

“Evidence … is that these partnerships had left a notable legacy in the vast majority of secondary schools and their feeder primary schools over the last four years”.

There were protests at these cuts from teachers, sports professionals and the Youth Sport Trust and there was a partial restoration of funding, with £32.5 million for each partnership for three years to support reduced school sports partnerships, but that money was not ring-fenced and half the partnerships closed. The school sport survey was also abolished but the cricket project, Chance to Shine, more about which in a minute, carried out its own survey and found that 54% of parents said that their children were doing less than two hours of organised activity in school per week—an extraordinary decline.

Without a national strategy with links to communities, health boards and the media, I fear that inner-city sport will be at risk for schools and their children. Not only will we be deprived of possible star sportsmen and women, but young people’s health and well-being will suffer. What is the Government’s strategy for young people and sport? Of course, there are initiatives. One of my favourites for many years has been the English cricket board’s Chance to Shine. I should declare an interest as a Lady Taverner, like my friend across the Room, the noble Baroness, Lady Heyhoe Flint, who, I hope, will build on what I have to say. Chance to Shine works in a strategic way with all 39 county cricket boards to deliver coaching to boys and girls in inner-city schools, not on vast playing fields but in school playgrounds and halls. In 2005, fewer than 10% of state schools played any form of cricket. Since then, Chance to Shine’s initial target of reaching 2 million children in 6,500 schools has been achieved. That is extraordinary. The programme has had structure, dedicated staff and evaluation effectiveness. As I have said already, structure and knowing what works is vital.

Chance to Shine has extended its inner-city StreetChance programme, funded by Sport England, to enable 11,000 16 to 24 year-olds in deprived areas to take part in weekly community cricket over the next three years. That includes the project Girls on the Front Foot, to empower girls through cricket. It is important that, in addition to cricket, Chance to Shine workshops also discuss with young people the dangers of gangs, gun and knife crime and drug and alcohol abuse. Fifty-four per cent of participants say that their attitude towards the police has changed for the better; and 64% say that the project helped them to avoid getting involved in local gangs. That is sport influencing and empowering behaviour in a dramatic way.

Let me mention one or two other initiatives. Noble Lords may recently have seen news of the Ebony Horse Club in Brixton in south London, opened in 2011 by the Duchess of Cornwall. The Duchess and the Queen visited very recently to review progress and unveil a plaque. The club provides a community riding club for 160 inner-city children a week, including those with special needs and disabilities. It offers, as well as access to working with horses, mentoring for children with challenges at home and school. It has nine horses, a paddock and classroom facilities for horse care classes and group work. Again, that is an example of sport going beyond the aim of fitness. The programme enthuses and empowers young people to think outside their lives and to work collaboratively.

Sport England’s Get on Track supports marginalised young people between the ages of 16 and 25 through a wide-ranging tailored sport and personal development programme. Exciting opportunities are delivered by the Youth Sport Trust’s Change4Life, based on the skills developed in a range of Olympic and Paralympic sports, encouraging young people to take part in physical activity. In Birmingham, Sport4Life UK aims to involve the most disadvantaged children not only in sport but in volunteering, education and personal development, and encourages older young people to get back into education, employment or training.

In Camden, a fencing club opened as a community youth project to offer lessons to young people aged between seven and 17. It is based in a school, Acland Burghley, using the sports hall and gymnasium and opens five nights a week. The club also offers fencing classes in primary schools in the London Borough of Camden.

I have given a few examples of sporting initiatives which work with young people, many of whom are disadvantaged and from inner cities. That is invigorating and exciting. The children who get involved are very lucky, but a youth sports strategy should not depend on luck. Again, I ask: when will the Government provide us with a coherent strategy for youth sport? A strategy which is funded, cohesive, visible and dynamic would benefit all our young people, encourage the take-up of sport and encourage the playing of sport to be lifelong, in the inner cities and elsewhere.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, for introducing this debate.

The challenge of making an outstanding London Olympic Games truly great is the challenge of matching the exceptional performance of Team GB with an unprecedented stepchange in sport and recreational opportunities for inner-city children. We must translate that inspiration into their participation. It is not too late. Stronger ministerial co-ordination between a wide range of departments, driven by greater government commitment, can still deliver the necessary results.

No school should be an island. Only by working with local clubs, both community and private, can schools add full value to pupils. I hope the pilot teacher training programme which provides national governing body qualifications to promising teachers, so that they can become specialists, can be extended and funded nationwide. Ofsted should take a far more proactive role. Nothing short of a revolution in sports policy is needed to improve the content and time devoted to preparing primary school teachers for working with schoolchildren in PE.

In the run-up to the Games, the Get Set programme reached out to schoolchildren and was an essential part of the sports legacy for our schools. The tireless work of Jan Paterson of the British Olympic Association has ensured that Olympic and Paralympic values are now integrated into a wide range of curricula in a growing number of British schools. It continues to make sense for schools to draw on the expertise of the BOA and of governing bodies, as early and as deeply as possible.

When economic pressure is applied to local authority spending, discretionary spend will always be the first to be squeezed. In England, sport and recreation provision is discretionary spend. We should not forget that local authorities have historically been the largest source of funding for sport and recreation in this country. In educational terms; in aiding the fight against obesity; in providing the only language understood by some of our young people, who find the constraints of the classroom difficult to grasp and would find themselves on an escalator to crime without the medium of sport; in learning teamwork; in realising the opportunity of a growing, multi-billion pound industry with new media and global social networking access—in all these areas many of these benefits will wither on the vine, because of necessary local authority cost savings, unless discretionary spend becomes mandatory. With these cuts, and the loss of playing fields and facilities, the hope and inspiration which was felt by so many young people in 2012 will be dented.

The words of the President of the CCPR, the Duke of Edinburgh, after his half-hour broadcast on active leisure in 1956, which was watched by 10 million people, included the remarks:

“All I am concerned about is people should not be forced to do nothing because there is no opportunity for them to do something in their leisure time”.

We had a great Games. Children in the inner cities deserve a matching opportunity to participate in the sport of their choice, to improved facilities, greater access, targeted investment, qualified PE teachers and high-quality coaching.

My Lords, in the two minutes and 59 seconds available to us, it is difficult to add much to this debate, other than to say, like my noble friend Lord Moynihan, that when you ask government to get involved in this you are asking all of government to get involved, and to reorganise in a way that government seems to find extremely difficult to do. Under any colour we have seen so far in government, departments do not like to co-operate. Simply to make a change that will help the country’s youth to take part in sport, you have to cover half of Whitehall. I was just doodling here and have written down Health, Education, DCMS and Ministry of Justice; all these departments have an input into some of the introductory schemes that virtually all sports take part in. The noble Baroness mentioned Chance to Shine, but there are dozens of schemes, involving virtually all sports. They have worked out that, if you offer an introductory package, it allows people to get involved in a sport.

I do not like the use of the term “non-competitive”, because sport is basically a physical competition. Whether or not you record the scores on a board that sits there forever, or in a pile of books that become dusty, along with photographs of people with—shall we say—outmoded haircuts and unfashionable shorts, the essence of what is happening is competition. The idea that you get a ball past somebody or move it into a space where somebody else picks it up and moves it up is the essence—but I probably did not have time for that little bit of semantics today.

Organising sport so that people can come in, try it and get accustomed to it has to be done in conjunction with government and, as my noble friend has already said, local government. Leaving this to a voluntary choice is bound to leave it squeezed whenever times are at all hard or whenever you get somebody who simply does not regard sport as a top priority. My noble friend is, of course, right. Unless government takes on the responsibility for encouraging people to access the great amount of voluntary help outside and co-ordinate across the entirety of it, sport will ultimately always have these peaks and troughs. Our challenge is to make sure that when times are bad progress is not lost and that we do slightly better than stand still. That is effectively all we can hope for—to make it very difficult for somebody to say, “No, that is not important”, because every time you do, you end up paying for it somewhere else, usually in the Ministry of Justice and the Department of Health.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Massey for initiating this debate and asking what steps Her Majesty’s Government are taking to encourage children from inner cities to take up sports. The short answer is that the steps are backwards and miserably ineffective. It could have been so different. From 2010, the coalition and Michael Gove, in particular, have systematically demolished school sport, which is at the heart of how and why children eventually love sport. From primary schools to opportunities in communities, the Government have a crucial role to play, and they have failed. They inherited a primary school system which, for the first time, put PE centre stage. School sports partnerships were an inspired and positive innovation. With qualified staff and good ring-fenced funding, our children were at last given proper grass-roots sports education in all our primary schools. As one of its first actions, the coalition demolished that successful formula. Only public outcry forced the Government into a U-turn, but one that provided a very poor substitute for what they destroyed. Why they took these actions is beyond all of us who see PE as an important right in schools and the basis of future sports participation.

The Olympics transformed public opinion, which became pro sport for all as never before. Young and old and people with disabilities were inspired. Volunteers came out in their thousands, and communities, including those in inner city areas, demanded a renaissance. It never came. The Government missed the favourable tide, held back from positive initiatives and failed the unique opportunities that they were given. They also failed to encourage the governing bodies of sport, many of which are doing excellent work in grass-roots sport. They could have had much greater public encouragement and better funding. The volunteers were left wondering what the future held, yet they are the backbone of sport in every club in the country. Where is the volunteers charter when we need it?

The Government have also failed to recognise the crucial role of sports, especially small clubs, in our communities. Why has nothing been done to help clubs enhance their facilities and make them more attractive to potential members by floodlighting, better playing surfaces and nicer social facilities? The Government have been nowhere. It is clearly not a priority for them. An obvious key component of sports facilities is to be found in our public parks. Virtually every sport can be catered for, and at relatively low cost. We already have Tennis For Free, an outstanding charity, successfully staffed by volunteers, which works in local parks. Young and old can be helped to take up that sport, and the same could be said of dozens of other sports which need open space close to home. There has been nothing from this Government for this valuable resource.

There have been many missed opportunities to promote sport, and the Government bear a heavy responsibility. In 2012, we had a unique chance to transform all our lives and the Government’s failure to capitalise on it is inexcusable. They will not be forgiven.

Finally, I thank those who produced the Library briefing pack, which, sadly, only reminded me of what we had prior to 2012 and how bleak the future looks today. The blame sits squarely with the coalition Government.

My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, for bringing forward this important topic.

I wish to refer to a report produced by the Science and Technology Select Committee, of which I am the chairman, entitled Sports and Exercise Science and Medicine: Building on the Olympic Legacy to Improve the Nation's Health. Shortly after the coalition was formed, the DCMS document Plans for the Legacy from the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games said that the Games would,

“increase grass roots participation, particularly by young people”.

DCMS’s own figures show that participation in sport by children has declined since the Olympics, with three-quarters of all children under the age of 10 saying that the Games had not inspired them to take up sport.

In the inquiry to which I referred, we anticipated that there would not be a successful legacy of the kind claimed by Ministers. Why did we reach this conclusion? Starting at the top, the then Sports Minister, Hugh Robertson, told us that DCMS was not interested in promoting physical activity through sport. He said that,

“it is not a drive on the nation’s health”.

Our report concluded:

“We find it remarkable that DCMS is not concerned with the health benefits of sport … We recommend that the Government take a strong, joined-up approach to promoting the health benefits of exercise and physical activity”.

Other noble Lords have also referred to the need for a joined-up approach.

In their response, the Government rejected our assertion and listed several initiatives, including the £150 million School Games programme, Change4Life, school sports clubs and the youth sports strategy, which have also been referred to by other noble Lords. All of that is overseen by the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Public Health. What mechanisms are in place to assess the impact of these programmes; and what is the Minister’s assessment of their success to date in engaging young children, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, in sport?

The Select Committee was also struck by the lack of awareness of health professionals of physical activity guidelines. One survey, recently carried out at the time of our report in 2012, of 48 London GP practices found that not one practice was aware of the latest government physical activity guidelines. In their response, the Government agreed that healthcare professionals should be aware of the benefits of physical activity and said that they were committed to dissemination of the UK Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines. Has the Minister any evidence that awareness among health professionals of the benefits of physical activity is increasing?

In our inquiry, we discovered that although the link between physical activity and health is well established, rather little is known about why exercise has such a wide range of health benefits. Improving this knowledge would help us to improve the health of the nation.

There is no doubt that encouraging young children to take up sport and exercise will enrich their lives and improve their health. Our inquiry showed that there are real gaps in the Government’s plans to realise these benefits.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, for initiating this debate. I did not thank her about 40 years ago when she got me out for a duck while playing for Lancashire against Staffordshire. I came into the debate feeling rather uplifted but I am beginning to feel rather gloomy, given the criticism that has emanated from noble Lords opposite.

The Government are making a promising start. My noble friend Lord Coe has a 10-year programme for developing the legacy. You cannot just push a switch and hope that, by a miracle, everything is a box of birds, as they say. Many national governing bodies of sport are developing inner-city projects with government funding. They would not be able to do so without it. We have heard about the wonderful “Chance to Shine” programme involving 2 million schoolchildren and linking schools to local clubs. There is government funding within that project. The ECB—not the European Central Bank but the England and Wales Cricket Board—has two other inner-city programmes funded by the England and Wales Cricket Trust, the Government and the Lord’s Taverners and Lady Taverners. The south Asia programme for inner cities was funded for four years through Sport England’s whole sport plan, while the cricket foundation StreetChance works in socially deprived inner-city areas. These all have some backing and recognition from government. It is early days, so let us please not squash down everything that we are trying to do.

Professional rugby has a 50-week programme, which is an integral part of the Government’s approach to addressing NEETs, or even capturing disadvantaged inner-city children before they become NEETs. The effects of Hitz, the professional rugby campaign, include dramatic improvements in behaviour and reductions in crime. Another scheme ending in the letter Z, Kickz, uses the appeal of professional football clubs to target some of the most disadvantaged areas in the country by engaging youngsters of seven to 11 years old, with Sport England, the Metropolitan Police and Premier League clubs committing £9 million. Yet another scheme ending in Z, Wicketz, sponsored by the Lord’s Taverners, aims to create a sustainable cricket club environment in deprived communities and has been done with huge success in Tower Hamlets, where the oft-criticised Lawn Tennis Association and the Tennis Foundation have also funded projects for a diverse community.

The Government believe in the power of sport. Our previous Minister for Sport, my right honourable friend Hugh Robertson, believes in this philosophy, and I can say with relief that the new Sports Minister, my honourable friend Helen Grant, is just as keen in this policy area. I wonder if she now has the strength to put a judo arm-lock on various government departments mentioned by my noble friend Lord Addington. Inner-city projects need that help, and it needs all departments to pull together.

My noble friend Lady Grey-Thompson urged in the Youth Charter 2012 Games Legacy Report that:

“You can’t wait for someone else to do legacy, you’ve got to take a bit of responsibility for yourself”.

So, with responsibility, Sport England is investing more than £1 billion in youth and community sport from 2013 to 2017 through its whole sport plan. The Government are aware of the need to make youngsters in inner cities and beyond much healthier and happier, but it is just the beginning of a very long marathon.

My Lords, most noble Lords here will know of the sheer energy and stamina of most children from about the time they can walk. On a scooter, they will outstrip parents, grandparents and siblings; on their feet, they will walk and run further than any of the former might want to do. I speak here from some experience. They are ready for any amount of adventure and are intolerant of downtime, unless it is a short bit of TV at the end of the day. Stillness is not something which comes naturally to children; their natural tendency is towards activity.

To learn at an early age enthusiasm for, and the discipline of, sport is bound to affect the rest of a child’s life. I am convinced, as the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, has said, that many of the troubles caused by “feral” teenagers and gangs come from those children being bored stiff, with few places to go or opportunities for letting off steam, particularly for those living in inner-city communities with peers whose woeful influence they may not be able to avoid. Idle hands are not good news.

If we accept that most children and teenagers are open to well controlled activity, there is a real responsibility on parents, schools and voluntary groups to see that they are provided with those opportunities. That includes ensuring that there are facilities. One of the tragedies that have taken place over time has been the sale of many playing fields for other uses. But I am not as despondent as the noble Baroness, Lady Billingham, about local authority involvement; many local authorities already ensure that there are playing fields, that the parks are used properly and that there are teachers and people ready to provide the instruction that these children need.

It says in my notes that most boys know their football favourites, but in the presence of two such responsible cricketers, I had better say that cricketers are known as well. You can then run on through all sports, as noble Lords have with their examples.

The 2012 Olympics opened the eyes of many young people to the possibilities of sport. It is therefore very encouraging to note from the Statement laid by my noble friend Lord Gardiner on the legacy from the Olympics that, far from what the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, said—that there was a decrease in the number of children and young people who had been motivated to do more sport—there was an increase. More than 4,000 days had been given by athletes themselves to community and school sport since London 2012. Also, funded athletes will be required to give five days a year—I hope that that is the least that they will give—to inspire children to get involved in sport. It is not only the expert athletes to whom we need to turn, it is, as has already been mentioned, the volunteers: the fathers who turn out on a Saturday morning and those who run the clubs.

I am reasonably optimistic about the future of sport. I recognise that it needs a lot of support from a great number of people but I think that children’s tendencies are always to be occupied and that sport provides them with the structure to do so.

My Lords, I tread with trepidation in this field of experts and thank my noble friend Lady Massey for enabling us to discuss this. There is a desperate need to engage women and girls in sport. I am not at all convinced that the Olympic legacy has fulfilled its obligation to women and girls—in particular, those from minority backgrounds. I specifically draw your Lordships’ attention to the low number of Muslim young girls and women taking part in sports and physical activities. Obesity and heart disease are causing concern. It is time that we addressed the issue of their inclusion and its long-term benefits.

I grew up in Bangladesh, played cricket and badminton and climbed trees in a mixed environment. I may be latching onto a bygone era or I was just lucky that I grew up in a family where women and girls were not restrained in the name of culture or faith. On the point about role models, the Bangladesh women’s cricket team has already achieved one-day status. That appears not to be the norm here in the UK, even for the second and third generation of our young women and girls. One piece of research shows that Muslim girls in the UK are more sceptical and reluctant about participating in sports than girls in traditional Muslim countries. It is revealing that Muslim girls in the UK appear to be more unwilling and more negative towards engaging in sports to the extent that a significant number will skip sports lessons.

When girls and young women were asked about their reasons, many cited the lack of adequate, appropriate and available facilities, with communal showers and the wearing of inappropriate clothes considered to be barriers to their participation. I will not dwell further on other barriers cited in that research and will leave further analysis for another time.

Perhaps I may take this opportunity to share a few hopeful rainbows on the horizon. Recently, I attended a celebration of the work of London Tigers, a sporting organisation which is encouraging young people, including women, across different boroughs to engage in sports and physical activities.

One of its trustees, Polly Islam, is an incredibly inspirational individual working, in particular, with women. I was inspired by the work of London Tigers. I suggest that any sporting institution which finds it difficult to engage with communities looks no further than London Tigers, which has built up 27 years’ experience of working across boroughs and all communities. I appreciate how difficult it is for women, in particular, to access appropriate sports, and if women are not doing so, that is highly likely to influence their daughters.

I had a seminal moment a couple of years ago when I ran publicly for the first time in a tracksuit for one mile for a charity in my area. It broke a very personal taboo of 30 years. I know of a number of women who run every evening near where I live, all informally organised, often in the quiet of the night so that they are not seen. Very few attend the sports centres or clubs available to them, although Tower Hamlets Council has organised a number of sporting events.

I have no qualms in saying that it is only a matter of time, but we have to ensure that facilities are available in both the public and private sectors. I hope that some private members’ clubs will also consider women-only sessions. It surely makes business sense. We must not allow our prejudice to put up barriers which add to the discrimination that many women and girls experience in pursuing sports and physical activities.

My Lords, I join other noble Lords in thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, for giving us this opportunity to debate participation in sport. We would not be participating in this debate if we did not all feel very strongly that this is an essential cause. Children must be encouraged. The noble Baroness gave us a number of very good reasons why the Government and others should encourage children to participate, whether they be improving performance in school or keeping people from crime.

Above all, the reason I feel passionately that sport must be encouraged is because of the health benefits. Whether we know it or not, we are suffering from an epidemic of obesity. The figures are astonishing. Just under 10% of children coming into reception class can be categorised as obese, and that number will double by the time they get to year 6.

I shall draw on a different Science and Technology Select Committee report to the one to which our chairman, the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, referred. Two years ago, we did a report on behaviour change. How do Governments influence behaviour change? This is a very difficult and to some extent intractable problem wrapped up in our lifestyles. We know why this epidemic of obesity is happening. It is because we are sedentary, we eat far too many high-energy foods and drinks and there are computers and games boxes. All those things contrive to make us very much more sedentary, and our jobs are not as manual as they were.

My noble friend referred to a marathon, and it is certainly a marathon we are talking about here if we are trying to change people’s lifestyle. We are trying to participate in partnership with any number of organisations. Of course the Government are one, but there are youth clubs, schools and parents. Parents are the key. Once you get parents on side and get them to take seriously and insist on opportunities, whether in school or youth clubs, you will get traction and momentum. That is why when we looked at all the nudges and prods in the behaviour report, we recognised that although labelling would play an important part and any number of other nudges would be significant, ultimately, if you want to change our attitude to sport, you start in the primary school, get parents involved and make sure that we all change our attitude to what is an acceptable lifestyle, not just for children but for adults as well. I commend those schools which have drawn attention in their policies to how they involve parents in promoting sport. When Ofsted takes the more rigorous approach which we are promised it will take, I am sure that this should be a very strong criterion on which everything should be judged. Partnerships are important. I do not think any one partnership or strategy is going to resolve this problem, but partnership is a very sensible word to use, and it must involve parents.

My Lords, I shall take just one moment to draw attention to the importance that sport can have for disadvantaged children. I can probably do this best with a very small story. Once, I was sitting with a very wise and experience head teacher at a school near Eastbourne for children with emotional and behavioural difficulties and I asked him, “How do you make contact with a new boy when he arrives?”. He said, “I sit him down in my study and I say ‘Tell me about yourself’, and the boy starts and tells me all the awful things he’s done and all the things he can’t do and how naughty he’s been, that he doesn’t have any hope and so on. This usually goes on for about half an hour, sometimes three-quarters of an hour. Eventually, when he dries up, I say, ‘Right. Now you’ve told me all the things you can’t do. Let’s talk about the things you can do’”.

My Lords, I thank very much my noble friend Lady Massey for introducing what has been an authoritative and very well informed debate. I also pay tribute to the House for establishing the Olympic and Paralympic Legacy Select Committee, which has enabled a powerful body of knowledge and analysis to be assembled. I very much look forward to debating its report in due course.

My main advantage among such an august list of contributors is that I cover both education and DCMS from the Front Bench. I therefore know quite a bit about what has been happening in schools since this Government came to power. As I am sure we would all acknowledge, quality schools sport is essential in addressing the participation of inner-city children, so in the short time that I have I would like to make a few points about this.

Let us face it: it has not been a very happy story. It seems that the Secretary of State took the view that any initiative introduced by the previous Government must, by its very origins, be flawed and should therefore be scrapped. This was not the only initiative to have suffered that fate but, as a number of noble Lords have said, one of the starkest examples of this approach was what happened to school sport. Funding for the well established and well respected school sports partnerships was withdrawn, only to be partially reinstated following massive protests but with nothing like the original coverage and co-ordination, while the target of every child doing at least two hours of PE a week was withdrawn. The latest research now shows that half of children failed to do at least two hours of PE a week and that one in seven teenagers did no sport at all in their last year of school. Meanwhile, as we have heard, Michael Gove is continuing to allow the sell-off of school sports fields, with 50 sold so far, despite pledging to protect them in the coalition agreement.

A recent report by the Commons Education Select Committee—chaired, incidentally, by a Conservative MP—reported that PE lessons are still not good enough in almost one-third of primary schools. It also identified that the Government’s new obsession with children taking part in competitive team sports, such as football, rugby or netball, was deterring many young people, particularly girls, taking part in sport at all. That committee concluded that the Government should reintroduce the target, scrapped by Michael Gove, requiring all pupils to complete two hours of PE a week. It also called for targeted measures for girls. As I say, it has not been a happy story in schools and it feels very much as if there have been three wasted years of dithering in school sport policy over the crucial Olympic period. Obviously, in this respect I welcome the announcement made earlier this year of new primary sport funding for coaches, but that is short-term money and is in place for only two years, and therefore risks failing to embed the training culture in the school.

It feels as if we have had a realistic but rather depressing debate this afternoon. I think we are all united in wanting sport to be a more central part of young people’s lives so I hope that the Minister is able to convince us that, belatedly, if nothing else, a credible school sports strategy is being developed that will encourage all young people to enjoy and maintain an active sporting life while going into adulthood.

My Lords, this has been a very well informed debate and I will do my very best to convince the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, about the Government’s policy on sport. It has been a very high quality debate and I was thinking, as we were going through it, that there is probably sufficient talent within this very Room to start a House of Lords ladies cricket team, which would be quite a strong team at that.

There was immense expertise and knowledge, which was particularly evident in the way that the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, introduced the debate. There was great passion and concern for the subject of sport in school, to which I think people on all sides of this Committee are totally signed up. What we are arguing about is purely the best way of achieving the ends that we are all agreed on, and those ends are focused on ensuring that people engage in sport beyond their school age. That is the objective which we are aiming for. We know that the earlier people start, the more likely they are to do that.

The movement towards competitive sport is not a thought or a passion based on ideology: it is simply that our sporting clubs in the United Kingdom are primarily competitive sporting clubs, as the noble Lord, Lord Addington, said, and, therefore, if we want people to take part in sport in later life, then probably it will be through competitive sport.

There are two elements to this: the first is to go younger and younger to reach people and inspire them to take part in sporting activity from a young age; and then, secondly, to introduce them to competitive sport, which will enable them to link up with sporting clubs and continue that activity into later life.

With those remarks, I shall try to respond to as many as possible of the points made during the debate. I applaud the discipline shown by all Members of the Committee in constraining their remarks.

I turn, first, to the noble Baroness, Lady Massey of Darwen, who introduced the debate and referred to school sports partnerships. The Government recognise that these were introduced with the objective of increasing participation and that in a number of areas there were some successful partnerships. However, the wider view was taken that they were too bureaucratic, too top down and too expensive and were not delivering the results we all sought. Therefore we decided to distribute that additional funding at school level—and to focus it particularly on primary schools through the primary school premium—so that each school will receive £8,000.

It was often felt that some school sports partnerships were too large. Some of them worked but, where you were talking about eight secondary schools and 40 primary schools linking up with an FE college, sometimes it was difficult to get a sense of where things were tailored to a particular school. The argument we put forward is that focusing on individual schools—not only by writing a cheque but by ensuring that the money is ring-fenced specifically for sport and by ensuring that Ofsted has a responsibility from September 2013 to assess how schools are doing in spending that money—is an important part.

The noble Baroness, Lady Massey, referred to the need for a strategy. I understand her argument and where she is coming from but, as so many different organisations are involved in this, the fear is that people are getting lost in the gaps. I commend to her the Sport England youth and community sports strategy which seeks to bring together the sporting clubs and schools. This is not only backed by a strategy but by £1 billion, which can make a real difference.

I took the point of my noble friend Lord Moynihan—who of course has immense expertise and knowledge in this area, particularly in protecting the legacy of the Olympics—when he rightly said that no school is an island. However, the school sports partnerships were not abolished and it is still possible for individual schools to come together if that is how they choose to spend their money.

My noble friend mentioned the Get Set and Plan Your Legacy schemes. Get Set was a great way of involving more than 22,000 schools in the Olympics and Plan Your Legacy is a key part of ensuring that the progress that was made and the inspirational performances that we saw in both the Olympics and Paralympics are not lost.

The noble Lord, Lord Addington, spoke about competitive sports, and this is, like rugby, something about which he knows a great deal. We both participated in the winning team—a rare winning team—in the House of Lords versus House of Commons tug-of-war match on the only time the House of Lords has actually won. He reminded us about competitive sports. So this is not an ideological obsession, it is simply trying to link together the satellite clubs—the sporting clubs—with what is going on in schools.

Sainsbury’s School Games have transformed competitive sport in schools. More than 60% of schools are taking part in the School Games, offering every pupil, regardless of ability or disability, more chances to compete in sport, not only intra-school but also between schools and at county festivals. More than 100,000 young people took part, 10,000 of whom were children with disabilities. The national finals were held in Sheffield, and next year they will be in Manchester. That is an example of what we are doing in this area.

The noble Baroness, Lady Billingham, spoke with immense passion and knowledge. I know that as a distinguished spokesperson on this issue, and with her involvement in various tennis organisations, she is frustrated about school sports partnerships. I want to reassure her, however, that this is not lost; it is part of a wider strategy. The money is still going into schools. It is going in at a younger age and it is being monitored. There are moves to bring in more sports clubs to link with schools. Another concern she has is over the quality of physical education teaching, particularly in primary schools. Secondary schools have that, and that is why we are now funding extra places for teachers to train in physical education particularly for primary schools.

The noble Lord, Lord Krebs, spoke about the health benefits of sport. I think we are all broadly agreed on that. I noticed a survey by the Young Foundation which identified the health risks to the nation. It found that while 20% of people were vulnerable to smoking, 61% to 70% were vulnerable to inactivity, so it is a very substantial concern.

I know that there was some disagreement between the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, and my noble friend Lady Hanham over the figures. There was a slight decrease in overall activity from the 2008-09 baseline, from 91% to 88%, but there was a significant increase in some sports, notably cricket, dodgeball and rounders. We are committed to doing more to promote this through the School Games.

The noble Baroness, Lady Heyhoe Flint, reminisced interestingly about her cricket career against the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, and talked very positively about what is being done in schools. The Government believe in the value of sport, and £500,000 has been put in place to continue the legacy of the Olympic Games. Furthermore, physical education remains an essential part of the national curriculum.

The noble Baroness talked about particular schemes, and I was particularly struck by many of the contributions, including that of my noble friend Lady Hanham, who referred to the role of parents and volunteers in delivering much of our sport around the country. It is important that they continue to do so.

My noble friend Lady Hanham referred to the competition between competitive sport and computer games. Let me pay tribute to her. During her time as Minister she did something substantial, which was to block the pathway to the selling off of playing fields. I do not wish to make any party-political points on this but under the previous Government playing fields were sold off at a rate of 28 per year, and the rate has fallen to 16 per year. Now, because an application goes directly to the Secretary of State for Education, the only way that you can sell a playing field is if you can show that all the proceeds of that sale are going to go into new sporting facilities with other schools. That has been done, and it is welcome.

I shall comment briefly on what the noble Baroness, Lady Uddin, said. I was fascinated by her example of the London Tigers and I certainly want to learn more about them. She talked about the importance of encouraging girls into sport. There has been a growth in the number of girls-only sporting clubs. One hundred of these clubs have started up and an extra £1.7 million is going into them to promote more opportunities for females. The noble Baroness is absolutely right to say that we need to address that issue in particular and I am grateful to her for raising it.

My noble friend Lord Selborne referred to behaviour change. This is a critical area where we need to look more at how we change behaviour without legislating for it. We have enough legislation and regulation on the books already. As he said, it is critical that we inspire parents. Again, that speaks to the importance of getting sport into primary schools to do that.

I particularly enjoyed the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne. It was brief, succinct and to the point and reminded us that, in an age of pessimism, we have to focus on the positives. Certainly the optimistic nature of sport teaches us always to think about the future with optimism. That is something that I have had to learn through nearly 50 years of following Newcastle United Football Club. I am still struggling with it although we did slightly better last weekend.

Finally, I come to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch. She spoke, of course, very passionately. She is concerned that we get this right. She talked particularly about the two hours minimum of physical education. It is important to recognise that it was never enforced or mandatory; it was always aspirational. It will now be covered by Ofsted and primary school teachers will be encouraged to provide quality as well as quantity of sport, and to enhance that through the school sport premium and the youth and community sport initiatives.

I have run over time. I trust that the Committee will forgive me for that. This has been a fascinating debate and a great opportunity to raise these important issues, the aims of which we are all agreed on. It is also important to monitor progress along the way, and I hope that I have provided some reassurance in that regard.

Committee adjourned at 2.43 pm.