Schoolchildren (Creative Activities)

Oral Answers to Questions — Culture, Media and Sport – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th December 2000.

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Photo of Ruth Kelly Ruth Kelly Labour, Bolton West 12:00 am, 11th December 2000

What steps he is taking to give schoolchildren more opportunities to participate in creative activities out of school hours. [141876]

Photo of Mr Chris Smith Mr Chris Smith Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media & Sport, The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

We are providing a number of new opportunities for schoolchildren to engage in creative activities, including sport and arts, both in and out of school hours, and £130 million is being made available to primary schools under the space for sport and arts scheme. From 2002, my Department will make £40 million available to introduce at least 12 creative partnerships, targeted on particularly deprived areas. The new opportunities fund is already providing £205 million to support a wide range of out-of-school-hours learning projects across the UK.

Photo of Ruth Kelly Ruth Kelly Labour, Bolton West

What impact will the declaration on sport agreed at the European Union's Nice summit have on creative and sporting activities for our schoolchildren?

Photo of Mr Chris Smith Mr Chris Smith Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media & Sport, The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I am pleased to be able to tell my hon. Friend that the declaration on sport adopted at Nice carries a specific reference, included very much with our encouragement, to the value of using part of the broadcasting income that comes into sport for the benefit of grass-roots sporting activity, especially among children. The declaration rightly identifies sport as special and as having a significance that takes it beyond the normal commodity rules of the EU. However, there is another side to the coin: sport must recognise that it has a responsibility to society, too. That means ensuring that smaller clubs are helped by any transfer fee system; that the grass roots of sport are nurtured with help from income at the top; and, above all, that opportunities are fostered for children to experience and enjoy sporting activity.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there appears to be ample time for sport, art and other creative activities out of school hours in private schools of the kind to which the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Ms Keeble) is fortunate enough to be able to send her child, but that that contrasts starkly with the position in the state school sector, which more than 93 per cent. of children are obliged to attend? Given the over-prescriptive nature of the national curriculum, what will he do to improve the situation in the interests of millions of children who depend, and will always depend, on a taxpayer-financed education system?

Photo of Mr Chris Smith Mr Chris Smith Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media & Sport, The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I have to ask the hon. Gentleman which party was in power in the 1980s, when the collapse in provision of out-of-school-hours sporting activity occurred, and which party was in power when playing fields were being sold off at an average of 50 a month? I also have to ask him whether, were he ever to get into government, he would cut the new opportunities fund money that will go to replace those sporting activities and facilities for children up and down the country.

Photo of Jonathan R Shaw Jonathan R Shaw Labour, Chatham and Aylesford

On the new opportunities fund, will my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming the extra £20,000 that is going to one of the most deprived areas in Chatham in my constituency, to provide after-school and holiday clubs? That is on top of the £2.4 million from the sure start programme which is being put into that area and which was welcomed by the Tory chairman of social services. The irony is that he would campaign for that to be abolished should the Tories win the election.

Photo of Mr Chris Smith Mr Chris Smith Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media & Sport, The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That example is just one of many thousands that are now in place around the country. Overall, the new opportunities fund has already committed more than £83 million to out-of-school-hours learning, sporting and artistic activities involving some 6,186 schools up and down the country. That is good news, and we want it to continue.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I do not know whether the Secretary of State had the good fortune to be in the audience last night for the BBC sports personality of the year awards, and hear the brilliant tribute that Steve Redgrave paid to those who had got him into rowing and supported him throughout his career. He is a role model who shows modesty and dignity. Such inspiration points to the importance of encouraging youngsters into sport while they are still of school age. Would the Secretary of State consider the idea of someone outside school interviewing all youngsters, once in primary school and once when they start secondary school, to see what arts or sport they have a particular interest in pursuing that is either not offered by the school or not sufficiently available within the school timetable and school hours?

Photo of Mr Chris Smith Mr Chris Smith Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media & Sport, The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

My hon. Friend the Minister for Sport was present at the award ceremony last night, and I am sure that the whole House sends congratulations to Steve Redgrave on a well-deserved achievement. While we are on the subject of congratulations, can we marry that with congratulations to the England cricket team who, for the first time in almost 40 years, have achieved victory against Pakistan in a test match in Pakistan? The success of our cricketers, rugby union players, athletes and Paralympic athletes has brought a lot of joy to many people in this country. Of course, such success has to be on a broad base of mass participation in sport, especially from an early age. We cannot have success at international level unless we have that broad participation in the early years. School is a very important place for that to start. We shall certainly keenly consider the hon. Gentleman's particular proposal.