Sport in Schools

– in the House of Lords at 7:41 pm on 1 March 2000.

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Photo of Lord Cowdrey of Tonbridge Lord Cowdrey of Tonbridge Conservative 7:41, 1 March 2000

rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what they consider to be the role of sport in schools.

My Lords, I feel that I speak for every true sports person in the land as I press the Minister to tell us how the Government see the role of sport in schools. Several weeks ago, the Prime Minister said that he wants to see schools finding more time in the curriculum for music, the arts and sport. That sounded hopeful. But what is the follow-up to that? How will it work out in the schools?

First, I ring out a positive note. The recently published Sport England report on schools is excellent. Much more constructive thought is now given to this subject than ever before. Also, I admire the robust contribution made by the Minister for Sport, herself PE-trained; she has worked as a PE teacher and she is passionately keen to see much more participation in sport in primary schools. She is so right. That is where we must begin.

We welcome the development of "life line bridges" linking the best talent in schools with the junior section of local clubs. I could go on. But nothing must deflect us from chasing hard so that more time is given in the school curriculum to physical education and sport at every age group--the younger the better. Frankly, to achieve that will require a huge sea change on the part of headteachers in their understanding of the impact that sport can have on the education of the young.

We all know the problems: headteachers are overwhelmed by too many pupils to cope with; inadequate sports facilities; and too few sport and PE teachers, who work with enormous zeal and energy but who are just too few to be able to cover the ground.

I have spent time recently in teachers' common rooms during breaks. They are a hive of buzz, industry and bustle. Teachers are endlessly filling in paper and more paper. That is a burden which never plagued my teachers, or so it appeared, for they had so much more time to give.

As to the value of sport in school, I give four examples from my own experience: fitness, discipline, the art of concentration and temperament. I shall leave the subject of fitness to other noble Lords because I know that we are all seriously concerned about the low level of natural fitness. Young people are driven or travel by bus to school; there is limited sports activity; they are driven or travel home by bus, where they switch into the computer or television. That is a daily pattern which we must somehow alter.

As regards discipline, I believe that on the sports field it is easier to make young people aware of the real need for discipline. There is the self-discipline required by each individual as he looks to improve himself. There is the discipline of learning to play as a member of a team. There is the discipline of having to conform to the conventions of sportsmanship and fair play. We shall hear a lot about that in the next few years.

On the subject of discipline, in my view it is absolutely essential that the teacher should maintain a firm control--I nearly said "fierce" control, because that is what I had--for the game to be played seriously. As a result, much more fun is derived.

Let us take the art of concentration, which I believe must be nurtured. I was lucky to start early. At the age of 10, I was at a practice football game. The ball was at the other end and someone near me made a funny remark. Stupidly, my friend and I fell about laughing. The master went berserk. There were long blasts on the whistle while everyone gathered at the centre spot. He advanced on me and yanked my ear and that of my friend. That could not happen today, sadly. He bellowed, "Concentration. Every games player must learn the art of concentration". He went on to explain that that is at two levels: when the ball is at a distance, one must always concentrate and be aware; and then when the ball comes, one needs complete concentration. He said, "Everyone will write me today a 100-word essay on concentration". On the next wet day, he discussed it in an amicable way. The word "concentration" was in my mind throughout my cricket career and spilled over into my classroom efforts, for what they are worth, and in listening better to speakers. The fact that it is still ringing in my ears 60 years later in the House of Lords just shows what a lesson learnt early can mean to a young man--a lesson learnt on the sports field.

Last and perhaps most important is the development of a calm temperament. Some say that that is God's gift. They say, "That chap has a marvellous temperament". To a degree, that is right. But I believe that it can be nurtured. Sport is a cruel, hard taskmaster. You are up and winning one day; losing by a mile the next. There are the quirks of form and elusiveness of success. No classroom can match the drama that a sports field can offer. That one must come to terms with seeking to keep an even keel through the daily strains of life itself has been for me the most valuable lesson of all learnt on a sports field.

Incidentally, dare I suggest that the scholars, to whom discipline and concentration come more easily, could be more rounded people if they were more exposed to the rigours of sport?

I am grateful for the number of noble Lords who wish to speak in this debate. I am particularly grateful to those who have put time aside this evening to speak on what is, I believe, an extremely important subject at a very important time.

Dare I say also that the Government have lost the plot a little with regard to the use of sport in making for a more rounded education for a huge number of young people? I urge the Minister to press the appropriate departments for a more vigorous and positive approach and, please, let it be with all speed.

Photo of Lord Puttnam Lord Puttnam Labour 7:48, 1 March 2000

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cowdrey, for making this evening's debate possible. I thank him for setting us off in such a terrific manner.

I start by declaring several interests as chairman of the General Teaching Council and of the Education Standards Task Force. My only other closely related experience is that I once made a film about athletics which I hope went a little way towards celebrating our somewhat better days of sporting achievement; that is, before we forgot how to play cricket, lost faith in our ability from the penalty spot and learnt to come last in ski-jumping without complaining.

All the interventions in this evening's debate will, I am sure, demonstrate the seriousness with which many of us treat the provision of sport in school. In addition to the obvious benefits to physical fitness and health generally, sport remains a powerful tool in helping to shape young people's behaviour and attitudes. It can break down barriers and build bridges among individuals and, indeed, within whole communities. It can have a unique impact on social inclusion and local and regional aspiration, as I have seen in Sunderland, where I work as Chancellor of the University; a city completely united in love of its football club.

Twenty years after it was written, I find it hard to improve on the words used, albeit in a rather unfortunate context, by one of the characters in "Chariots of Fire", played by Sir John Gielgud. He stated:

"Our games are indispensable in helping to complete an education. They create character, they foster courage, honesty and leadership. But most of all an unassailable sense of loyalty, comradeship and mutual responsibility".

Frankly, I could not have put it better myself.

As I am sure that we shall reach unanimity as to the value of sport, I shall leave questions regarding which party should be held primarily responsible for the current less than adequate provision to those noble Lords with greater knowledge and experience of the history of the matter; though I would suggest that the issue of blame is likely to be the least productive aspect of our debate. Having said that, to my mind it beggars belief that criticism can honestly be levelled at any initiative that in the space of just 18 months has turned around the literacy of our children to a point at which we are comfortably within sight of the Government's overall targets for improvement. That only goes to prove that miracles can happen when sufficient focus, commitment and resource are brought to bear. Surely a similar level of focus, commitment and resources will now be needed to be brought to bear on this problem.

For that reason I welcome the Government's announcement that as we escape from the bindweed of illiteracy, PE will once more be reinstated in the curriculum, but I rather despair at the low level of expectation contained in many of the proposed solutions.

We are told that from September of this year pupils will have at least two hours of physical activity each week, which will include curriculum time and what is termed "out of school" learning opportunities. Two hours is less than half an hour each school day or even nothing all week if a match can be arranged on Saturday morning. I have to believe that 100 years from now, anyone looking back at Hansard will be amazed that this debate was regarded as necessary, but necessary it clearly is.

Surely it is only in Britain that we tolerate the sort of reductionist discussion which holds that we can either achieve academic success at the expense of our national sporting prowess and physical health or vice versa. It seems bizarre to belabour the issue when we can find any number of working models that deliver excellence in both fields of endeavour.

The private school system in this country has for many years seemed perfectly able to deliver a high level of academic results at the same time as developing a considerable degree of excellence across a wide range of winter and summer sports. "Ah, yes", I hear the cynic's response. "But public schools have far more resources and are therefore able to fund the kit, supervision and, indeed the playing fields required to offer serious opportunity to each of the children in their care". "Ah, yes", say another group of cynics. "But public school kids come from more privileged backgrounds where sport is probably taken far more seriously", to which the only reasonable response seems to me to be, "Nonsense".

The fact is that this whole debate would be rendered irrelevant if we would only stop being two-faced about the barriers to success and acknowledge once and for all the simple truth that we have a choice. We can choose to prioritise sport, to ascribe real value to its health, social and emotional benefits, and to invest accordingly. However, that would mean digging far deeper into our pockets to find the money required to turn what to my mind are perfectly reasonable expectations into reality.

We need money to buy back the sports field sold off by the previous Government. We need money and commitment to train a generation of brilliantly motivated and highly professional sports teachers. We need cash to invest in the kit for every age group and, if necessary, every sport. We need to pay the groundsmen and the extra staff required to develop the skills and support the team competitions from which schools gather their sense of achievement. We need to ensure that sufficient funding is effectively targeted and managed for our Olympic hopefuls after they leave school. Then, and only then, I suggest to your Lordships, will we be wholly entitled to indulge our national preoccupation with whinging and whining on the back pages of our national press as we greet yet another Test failure; yet another near medal-less Olympic fiasco; yet another national humiliation on an international stage.

As long as individual success can only be achieved at the price of parental near-bankruptcy; as long as we look to our imperial history as a source of inspiration rather than our current levels of financial commitment, we are deluding ourselves and, frankly, wasting a whole lot of time and energy.

There is an alternative. We may decide as a society that we do not want it both ways; that we do not sufficiently value the benefits of sport. That is OK, but let us at least be honest about it. We could stop applying the odd million pound's worth of sticking plaster to this gaping wound and just retire to our sofas to watch "Match of the Day". We could even reinvest that odd million in making programmes about other people's sporting achievements, and possibly sell them abroad. Better still, let us invest the few bob we save and put it into the health service to shore up the support system we shall undoubtedly need as a nation of increasingly obese, unfit, couch potatoes.

In conclusion, this is surely what in policy terms is known as a "no-brainer". The health and social benefits of sport are not in dispute; our willingness to fund them is. In terms of its outcome, this is not an either/or situation. We can have academic and sporting excellence--

Photo of Lord Burlison Lord Burlison Government Whip

My Lords, I remind the noble Lord that this is a timed debate and he is well past the allotted time.

Photo of Lord Puttnam Lord Puttnam Labour

My Lords, I apologise to the noble Lord. I shall be finished in exactly 30 seconds. I hope the House will indulge me.

We can have academic and sporting excellence. How we achieve that is not a particularly complex problem on the scale, for instance, of the search for a cure for cancer. Give or take, there are around 25,000 schools in England and Wales. The question is simple: is the long-term health of our children and the overwhelming sense of national pride that comes from international success worth the price tag attached? It is all a question of national will, and the final answer lies in another place at the far end of the corridor.

Photo of Lord Sandberg Lord Sandberg Liberal Democrat 7:56, 1 March 2000

My Lords, we are indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Cowdrey, for raising the issue of sport in this House. As we all know, this is a timely debate.

I agree with the noble Lord that schools seem to have missed a trick by giving such a low priority to sport, especially team sport which I believe to be the most important. Equally, we all know of the problems of bureaucracy and form-filling. I do not think that we should try to turn political tricks on this question. It is much too important for that and affects us all, whichever side of the House we may sit.

It is difficult for schools in general and teachers in particular to keep up with form-filling and to look after sports. It is a sad fact that for many teachers it is not possible to devote the time they so unselfishly gave in the past to organising games such as cricket, football, rounders and, indeed, any team games, which are so essential to youth and what is most missing today.

This is in no way to denigrate individual achievements. A shining example which I was lucky to see was Lennox Lewis winning the heavyweight title, and unifying that title, for Britain. Another achievement, perhaps not so headlined in the press, was the dramatic announcement a few months ago by the noble Lord the Minister of his prowess at bar billiards and his championship.

More seriously, we seek to promote team games, which are character building. Though we may not make the headlines--with the notable exception of the noble Lord, Lord Cowdrey--most of us will testify how we all carry the lessons of teamwork, which may well mean unselfishness and fair play, into our adult years.

We have heard the Government tell us that school fields are no longer being sold off to the extent they were. That they should be sold at all is sad. A rather disturbing article appeared in yesterday's Daily Telegraph on which perhaps the Minister will be able to comment when he comes to reply.

It is at school that youth should absorb the lessons that team participation brings. All too often these days it is from watching TV that boys and girls learn how games are played and the antics in which their sporting heroes are engaged which stick in their mind. We are all saddened to see the increase in professional fouls and today's adage seems to be, "Anything goes provided you do not get caught doing it". That is a sad indication of what we are doing in this country.

That was not the attitude of past years. It was at school that one was taught about fair play. It used to be said, "that just is not cricket"--a saying which today would probably merely bring laughter. It is not as though such changes in attitude have brought us any good. We need only study recent Test Matches and World Cup competitions to see that the new attitude has not achieved anything. I hope the Minister can assure us that the Government accept that more is required than lip service to the reduction in the sale of playing fields, for instance, which I mentioned. We need a proactive effort to promote sports in schools; assistance to headmasters once again to promote sports and thereby the team spirit in schools. Those are sadly lacking at the moment and a generation of young people who do not automatically absorb such teachings in school is a generation which is letting down both themselves and the country.

Photo of Lord Hoyle Lord Hoyle Labour 8:01, 1 March 2000

My Lords, I must first declare an interest as the chairman of Warrington Rugby League Club. Secondly, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Cowdrey of Tonbridge, for asking the Question. I would feel more certain of winning a few Test Matches if Cowdrey C. was coming in at three or four.

I want to discuss practical examples. When we look at the Sport England survey of schools, it makes for disturbing reading. There is less sport played in schools now than five years ago. Even more disturbing is the fact that 95 per cent of primary schools have no qualified PE teacher, and 85 per cent have no part-time assistants in relation to sport. That is dismal reading. That is why I want to concentrate on Warrington, a town I represented; a town I know a lot about.

Although pressure has been put on the primary schools in relation to literacy and numeracy, in Warrington most of the primary schools allocate extra time for sport and PE. In addition, there are good links between the secondary and primary schools so that help can be given from one to the other. Warrington also had its own sports festival last year and its primary schools received very good Ofsted reports.

I want to talk also about what we are trying to do with the William Beamont Secondary School. The school obtained a grant of £278,000 from the Department for Education. Because the school is part of a public private partnership, the private partner put in another £1 million which enables the school to have 10 all-weather pitches, a new sports hall and better changing facilities. It also enables Warrington to put forward the William Beamont school as a sports college for 2000-01. That means pupils who show prowess in sport can develop their ability along with their academic studies.

I may be accused of parochial preaching but I want to mention what Warrington Rugby League Club is doing. It developed a link with primary schools and is putting those schools in touch with their nearest amateur rugby league club. Since September 1999 that partnership has resulted in 5,000--I want to emphasise both boys and girls--receiving coaching in rugby football. That is a way forward for the future. In addition, it enables the club to look at the difference between participation and excellence.

The club initiated a schools scholarship scheme. Children who are outstanding in sport in Warrington can be offered a scholarship through the club, just as they would if they were good in arts or drama. They can then go along to the William Beamont school and develop their sport along with their academic studies. That is the way to spot the winners of the future and to maintain our sports. When I refer to "sport" in relation to William Beamont and the participation of the Rugby League club, I mean all sports, not just rugby. We are looking at children who are good at all sports.

The rugby club players are participating in the scheme. They encourage healthy eating and advise children on the right diets. They sit down at the schools and eat with the children as well. The stadium at Wilderspool will form the "wolf den". It was opened by my good friend Estelle Morris, the Minister for Educational Standards, and it will cater for children who are losing interest in school. It will offer them an education through the club and through the colleges. Players will participate, encouraging the children to develop an interest. They will be able meet their local heroes--we are the only professional club in the town--and find a new interest. I believe that by bringing about the "den" we will be helping children from the most deprived areas.

I should like to say to Peter Deakin, our chief executive and his staff, to Daryll van der Byll, the coach, and the playing staff that they are doing an excellent job, not simply on behalf of the Warrington team but in helping to promote it as part of the community.

Photo of Lord MacLaurin of Knebworth Lord MacLaurin of Knebworth Conservative 8:07, 1 March 2000

My Lords, for too long in this country we have failed to recognise fully the parlous state of physical education and sport. I mention from the outset "sport" and "physical education" because the two are linked; they are not mutually exclusive. In the past many experts have tried and failed to identify the difference between the two, but for what purpose? Physical education may not be sport, although sport is certainly a form of physical education.

Our youngsters generally receive their first experiences of sport through schools' physical education lessons. Gone are the days when children, before entering school, played freely in the streets, in the fields, climbed trees and rode bicycles. Many enter school physically and socially under-developed. It is vital therefore that their introduction to sport through physical education is a positive one.

The responsibility for delivering physical education and sport to our young children is enormous. We learn from research conducted at the University of Exeter, for example, that the average child between the ages of 13 and 16 receives only around 20 minutes a week of beneficial cardiovascular activity. We know also that by the year 2030 there will be only 1.5 million children in this country under the age of five, as against 3.3 million in 1961. So we have a declining market. By the time most children reach secondary school, they are already lost to sport.

It becomes more important, therefore, to ensure that the links between exercise, health and well-being are established in the minds of our children from the point at which they enter school. If we establish good habits early on, while few will aspire to become international athletes, the social benefits of sport will remain and we will continue to find willing and enthusiastic volunteers on whom sport will continue to depend.

Therefore, it seems to me that we need to shift our emphasis to the primary sector where we need specialists in physical, social and health education who can feed in positive values in the young and create in their minds the link between these three disciplines, to introduce skill learning and to sow the seeds that sport is a force for the good in their lives.

Having then set about bringing physical education and sport back into the mainstream of school life, before we can make progress in improving standards at the international level, we need to recognise that there is a sporting continuum and that, at each stage of the child's development, learning must be supported by excellent teaching and coaching with a scientific base.

For many years we failed to provide sufficient resources for teachers and coaches. Many of our best coaches have been tempted overseas. Others have remained, making the best of a bad lot. I can hear people saying that we now have a lottery. That is absolutely right. But are the funds being spent strategically?

In schools, head teachers are saying that 57 per cent of teachers cannot deliver the National Curriculum in physical education. At teacher training college, most student teachers receive only 30 hours of physical education or sports training during their four-year course. We also know that since 1987 a further 97 per cent of 14 year-olds have fewer than two hours of physical education each week. These are damning statistics. Regardless of our political leanings, we should be ashamed of the way in which we have allowed physical education and sport to become marginalised in comparison with other subjects.

In the 1960s, we began to offer students newer sports such as golf, badminton, table tennis, and so on. Now it seems to me that the choice has become more one of either opting-in or opting-out of the PE programme. The problem has been worsened by the decline in specialist teacher training courses and a subsequent decline in the morale of teachers in physical education.

Children learn discipline through sport; they learn to work in groups; they are given opportunities to show leadership; and they learn how to make good decisions. But we have almost written off an entire generation in physical terms. We must, therefore, redress the balance and aim by the year 2010 to have in all primary schools the specialists I have already mentioned. We must also do better than relegate physical education and sport to after-school activities for those few who are interested.

Physical education should be a core part of the curriculum. There must be more funding provided at the primary level to create the massive shift in attitude among teachers, parents and children that exercise is part of the education for life. Given the declining numbers in the younger age groups, it is vital that we present physical activity as fun, as enjoyable and that skill learning is introduced as soon as youngsters enter the school system by enthusiastic professionals. For sport to take the quantum leap, there is a need for radical changes in policy, structure and funding. The function of the Sports Council movement needs to be reviewed and altered radically. We must ensure that television and all sponsorship money finds its way down to the grass roots of all sport.

We have given many sports to the world. I earnestly hope that the Government will give physical education and sport a very much higher profile in all our schools than it presently enjoys. That would be good for all our children and our nation as a whole.

Photo of Lord Dormand of Easington Lord Dormand of Easington Labour 8:13, 1 March 2000

My Lords, I heartily endorse all the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Cowdrey of Tonbridge, on the effect of sport on character building. I am, possibly, the only Member of your Lordships' House who has a diploma in physical education, although noble Lords will appreciate that it is a very yellowing document these days.

I shall concentrate my few remarks on the more practical aspects of physical education and sport. It is generally thought--indeed, it was mentioned twice tonight--that schools are required to provide at least two hours a week of physical education, which includes sport. But that is not the case. I have with me the physical education section of the new national curriculum, which states:

"The Government believes that two hours of physical activity a week should be an aspiration for all schools"-- an "aspiration"; in other words, it is not necessary. Perhaps I may remind noble Lords that there were once two compulsory subjects in education: one was religious education and the other was physical education. I think it is time that we went back to that. Physical education ought to be a compulsory subject.

The report of Sport England, which was published last week, says that some schools do not have any physical education time at all. If that is the case, it is little short of scandalous and the Government really ought to be looking into the matter. Much is said these days, and rightly, about the foundation of physical education and sport being laid in primary schools. However, there is a snag.

Fully qualified physical education teachers--those holding a degree or a diploma in physical education and sports science--cannot, and should not, be expected to teach 7 to 11 year-olds. Their training is directed towards secondary age pupils and, more than that, to schools with a wide range of facilities, such as a gymnasium, a sports hall, a swimming pool, an athletics track, and so on.

It is no surprise at all--at least, not to me--that there is a shortage of PE specialists in primary schools. There is a strong case for including specialist PE training in the training of some primary school teachers. Indeed, some teachers in primary school have that as their main interest and it should be exploited in their training. Such training should and would be different in a number of respects from the training that people receive who intend to teach in secondary schools.

Perhaps the most important sports facility is the playing field, and here we have a considerable problem. The previous government--I do not say this in a political sense--literally allowed the sale of thousands of playing fields, both school and community playing fields. We are still feeling the legacy of that policy today in our schools.

I should like to inject a personal note. It relates to a matter that I raised during the very first week of the life of the present Government, just after they came into office. It has taken two years to change the system. Where there is local objection to the sale of playing fields or community fields--and there very often is--the matter must now be referred to the Secretary of State for his decision. That is the new position and it is an improvement. However, when I say that of 83 applications for sale made up to the end of last year only three have been refused by the Secretary of State, it may not be--I put it no stronger than this--as effective as might be thought.

I realise, of course, that the more rigorous criteria--there are more rigorous criteria and--may have reduced the number of applications. I believe that to be the case. But, on the basis of what I have just said, the position needs very careful examination. I hope that my noble friend the Minister will take due note of the situation.

My final point concerns the range of sports and activities to be taught. Of course, things have changed a great deal since the early days when physical education came into the curriculum. It consisted then of physical training based on the old Swedish system of exercising, football and cricket. Every school should provide the widest possible range of sport. This depends on the school's facilities and the qualifications of the teachers. In some ways, it means that pupils should be given something of a "taster", if I may so describe it, of the range so that their inclinations and strengths can be developed, be it in basketball, swimming, athletics, gymnastics, cricket, tennis, netball or other sports. Most specialist PE teachers can train pupils to a high degree of competence in a number of sports. The obvious question to ask is: are we providing adequate facilities for sport in our schools and sufficient specialist teachers? The evidence suggests that there has been much improvement in this field in recent years, but a great deal remains to be done.

Photo of Lord Glentoran Lord Glentoran Conservative 8:19, 1 March 2000

My Lords, I do not wish to declare an interest other than a particular enthusiasm for improving the situation for sport in this country. I believe that it is well known that I come from Northern Ireland, where I believe that for years we have done things better. To prove it I shall list our sports stars.

We are a province the same size as Lancashire but we have such people as Darren Clarke, Rowan Rafferty, Eddie Irvine, Dawson Stelfox, who climbed Everest, etc. We produce these stars and we win. Why is that? We have the highest activity rates of school aged children across 30 countries. We have the fittest schoolchildren in the UK. I read, rather sadly, the comments of Sport England's Public Affairs Unit, which states,

"In general, children are receiving a declining amount of physical education each week ... The proportion of primary school children ... doing PE five days a week fell from 4 to 1 per cent ... The survey found that the vast majority of primary schools had no full-time",

PE teachers etc., etc., etc.

A hundred years ago we worried about malnutrition in schools; now we worry about obesity in schools. It is time something was done about this matter. We in Northern Ireland have been doing things differently. One of the key factors is that, since its inception, the Sports Council for Northern Ireland has always been part of the Department of Education for Northern Ireland. Education is managed by five Education and Library Boards, each of which has its own PE adviser. Our present Minister of Sport understands the system well.

The Sports Council for Northern Ireland has its own unit, which focuses primarily on the development of school sport. The Department of Education for Northern Ireland's strapline "Learning for Life" gives vision to teachers of the relevance of the physical education programme to the future lifestyles of their pupils and therefore enhances the importance of school and community sporting links.

The ethos of the strapline "Learning for Life" is promoted through in-service training for teachers and at a number of high level conferences which are held each year with plenty of attendant publicity. The Northern Ireland common curriculum gives children a broad and balanced experience of sport, and is compulsory to the age of 16 across a wide range of activities. Two of the key strands which are essential components of the PE curriculum delivery--these are inspected--are: attitudes which encourage a sense of fun, confidence building, fair play and co-operation; and health related physical education which makes children and parents aware of the relationship between activity and mental and physical well-being.

PE falls under the unique banner of creative and expressive studies. Hence, unlike in this country, it is protected from being squeezed by the extra pressure applied by governments to the literacy and numeracy initiative, as outlined in the Guardian of February 28th and the Guardian Education Supplement of February 29th. Those articles demonstrate clearly the problems that arise in this country from such a policy.

The Sports Council for Northern Ireland has recently launched the Youth Sport project. This now operates in 600 out of 1,300 schools. This has led to a dramatic increase in the number of extra-curricular activities provided to children of all ages. Five schools of sport, one for each area, have been established with a special remit to develop excellence in young people.

All this adds up to strong parental expectation that schools will deliver a high level and high quality of PE across a wide range of sports; and to high commitment from non-PE teachers, who are prepared to give time and effort to "out of school activities". We have never suffered from the withdrawal of teachers from those activities that occurred in this country when there were industrial relations problems. Those problems arose many years ago but they still exist. Some 93 per cent of primary schools in Northern Ireland provide a range of five or more activities after school. There is strong parental support of extra-curricular activity, which includes local clubs and school teams. We are fortunate to have a large number of medium-sized community based sports clubs. All this is delivered by a highly motivated and dedicated force of PE teachers, whose enthusiasm is maintained by professional in-service training and the ongoing relationship between the Education and Library Boards and their PE advisers, who link in with the Sports Council for Northern Ireland and with the senior people in the department. Therefore I offer a better and an alternative way.

Photo of Lord Faulkner of Worcester Lord Faulkner of Worcester Labour 8:25, 1 March 2000

My Lords, when as a schoolboy I used to follow the England cricket team, it never occurred to me in my wildest dreams that I would find myself speaking in your Lordships' House in a debate initiated by one of its greatest ever players. Therefore it is a privilege, 40 years on, to thank the noble Lord, Lord Cowdrey, for the pleasure he gave me and my generation then, and for introducing the debate this evening.

When he batted for England, one of his greatest skills was that of timing. It is obviously a skill that has not deserted him as he has initiated this debate in the week that Sport England has published its report Young People and Sport in England. That survey presents a contradictory and a disturbing picture. On the one hand young people and their parents still attach a huge amount of importance to school sport. It is shown to improve academic achievement, to reduce truancy and to increase fitness and health. But on the other hand the survey shows that the amount of physical education provided in schools has declined alarmingly.

People believe that schools should provide three-and-a-half hours of PE a week. Sport England states that the minimum should be two hours, and that it should be part of the core curriculum. We have heard much about the core curriculum from a number of noble Lords during the debate. I share their view, as indeed does the Central Council for Physical Recreation; namely, that sport should be included in the core curriculum. I understand that the Government say that two hours should be an "aspiration". However, the proportion of children getting even two hours a week fell from 46 per cent to 33 per cent over the five years between 1994 and 1999, so we are not even matching the Government's aspiration.

A further problem to which my noble friend Lord Dormand referred is the loss of school playing fields. As your Lordships will be aware, the present Government changed the policy of the previous administration, and since October 1998 it is supposed to have become much harder for playing fields to be sold off. One important change is that Sport England has become a compulsory consultee in the planning process and the decision is now taken at ministerial level.

In common, I imagine, with several of your Lordships, I have been sent some critical briefing on this subject by the CCPR, which claims that the new policy is not doing nearly enough to stop the sale of playing fields. I hope that when my noble friend replies to the debate he will be able to assure us that, if a playing field is sold, it is normally replaced by alternative school sports facilities.

Another serious concern is that the levels of skill in the most important sports of younger children are getting worse. Trevor Brooking, the Chairman of Sport England, was quoted in last Sunday's Observer as saying,

"The fundamental problem is that children are not being taught the basic techniques of how to hold a bat or racquet, or how to kick a ball. Kids leaving primary school at 11 now are, technically, the worst generation I have ever seen".

This means that the pool of talent from which the great sportsmen and women of the future will be drawn will be that much smaller and they will have less time to develop their skills than if they had had the benefit of participating in sport at an early age, as did the noble Lord, Lord Cowdrey. I refer to his comments about playing football at the age of 10.

My final point concerns the question of sport for girls, a particular problem to which far too little attention is paid in this country. I wonder how many of your Lordships are familiar with Title IX--which is always written in Roman numerals--of the United States Educational Amendments of 1972. This is the landmark legislation which banned sex discrimination in schools, in both academics and athletics. It states:

"No person in the US shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, or denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under, any educational programme or activity receiving federal aid".

That means that, for every dollar spent on boys' sport, exactly the same amount has to be spent on the girls. It is widely believed throughout the US that it is this legislation which has been responsible for the huge growth in high school sport for girls in the United States. Before Title IX, only 16,000 women played college sports; now 160,000 compete at college level.

The sport which has benefited most has been what the Americans call soccer. Of the 18 million Americans who play soccer, 7.5 million of them are women. It is widely believed that that is why the Women's World Cup was won by the Americans last year.

Let me conclude with a quote from a paper which is probably not often referred to in your Lordships' House. The Omaha World-Herald states:

"As the U.S. women's soccer team takes its victory lap around the country this winter, playing indoor soccer games against the World All Stars in front of sellout crowds, they do much more than just celebrate their monumental victory this past summer in the World Cup. In a way, they are celebrating the landmark ruling of TITLE IX, which was a monumental victory for all women athletes".

I have not the slightest doubt that if we had similar legislation in this country the prospects for girls' sports generally would be transformed. Perhaps my noble friend will tell us that that could become an aspiration too.

Photo of Baroness Massey of Darwen Baroness Massey of Darwen Labour 8:31, 1 March 2000

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cowdrey, for instigating this discussion. My only regret is that there is not sufficient time to do the topic justice, because, as other noble Lords have said, the recent surveys are quite depressing. The noble Lord introduced the topic with the elegance that I remember him demonstrating at the crease some years ago. My only regret then was that he did not play for Lancashire--where I, too, used to go in at number three.

I want to focus on what we mean by sport in schools, why it is important, and to offer some thoughts on its current state. I hope that the noble Lord will forgive me if I reverse the question and spend time considering the role of schools in sport as well as the role of sport in schools--and schools, of course, are not the only players, so to speak.

I am grateful for advice to the Youth Sports Trust--of which I know the noble Lord, Lord Cowdrey, to be a patron-- to Sport England, to the Health Education Authority, to the Trust for the Study of Adolescence, where I am a trustee, and also to teachers who have given me valuable insights.

First, then, what is "sport"? I do not wish to confine my remarks to competitive sport or to team games, important though they are. There have been moves for the past 15 years, at least, to encourage health-related exercise in schools in all parts of the UK. This is supported by the new curriculum guidelines on PE, to which I shall refer later.

Schools can help to set patterns for future fitness, as can families, clubs and private facilities outside schools. Future fitness is partly established while young. Successive reports from the UK Department of Health point out that the UK has high levels of coronary heart disease. Regular physical activity has been shown to combat not only this disease but to improve skeletal health, with a positive impact on, for example, osteoporosis, particularly in women. According to the report Young and Active, the recommended activity levels are one hour a day with, at least twice a week, activity to enhance and maintain muscular activity and bone health.

Research from universities, the Sports Council, Sport England and OPCS suggests that young people are not participating in enough physical activity to acquire the potential short and long-term health benefits. There is a particular need to increase activity levels among young people who have a disability, who are female, or who are from a black or minority ethnic group. For example, female school leavers aged between 16 to 24 appear to have half the level of physical activity of males of a similar age.

Young people, of course, are not thinking about avoiding coronary heart disease or osteoporosis when they take up physical activity; they want to enjoy it. Enjoyment was the main motivating factor found in nine studies of young people and physical activity. Others included excitement of the game, improving skills, keeping fit, losing weight, being successful and relaxation.

Physical activity can make a valuable contribution to education in general, as others have said. It encourages collaborative working, discipline, tenacity, the ability to cope with success and failure, and self-esteem.

Traditional games lessons--with which many of us are familiar--may have the opposite effect. We were fortunate if we enjoyed games and were good at them. If we were not, then not only could this damage self-esteem but it could discourage us from any kind of physical activity in future. I remember, both as a pupil and as a teacher some years ago, the forged notes with the ingenious excuses as to why someone could not play hockey that day, and the cunning employed by some of the less athletic boys, who contrived as the cross-country run began to hide in the local chip shop and to join the run as it returned. We cannot force children to enjoy sport. We can try to offer a choice of physical activity.

Schools cannot do it all. Time given to PE in schools--as the Sport England survey shows--has gone down. That is not surprising given the pressures on the curriculum. I cannot see this being reversed, except perhaps in specialist schools. We need to examine the potential of after-school activity, of local facilities and of activity and research sponsored by the commercial sector. I know, for example, that Nike, with the Youth Sports Trust, is looking into the activity levels of girls of 11 to 14.

It seems to me that local health clubs and gyms, sports clubs and classes in, for example, yoga, pilates and martial arts, could be usefully used by education authorities to ensure that young people do some kind of activity which they enjoy and may continue. Maybe some kind of credit system could be established locally, where a youngster could miss a sport in school that he or she was not suited to do for something else possibly outside school.

The national curriculum for maintained schools promotes activity-based PE, including dance, games, gymnastics, athletics and so on. There is an emphasis also on gaining personal knowledge and skills about activity, and on planning and evaluation. The Healthy Schools Standard has sport set within general health education. The GSCE and A level in PE demand not only active participation in sport but also analysis of what sport is about.

I want to suggest some possibilities for improving levels of physical activity and standards of sport in young people. First, we need a comprehensive national survey of health and fitness in young people. We need, built on objective surveys, to set targets for improvement and to monitor standards. We need more case studies on good practice. We need better links between primary and secondary schools. We need more training for teachers and encouragement for their enthusiasm. We need school inspections for PE which focus on extra-curricular activities and not on team sports only. We need more collaboration between agencies at a local level, such as education, health and leisure, and with the commercial sector.

I am not pessimistic about sport in schools. I think that we need to build on new approaches so that activity for all, as well as excellence, becomes a reality.

Photo of Lord Phillips of Sudbury Lord Phillips of Sudbury Liberal Democrat 8:38, 1 March 2000

My Lords, one can only adequately consider the role of sport in schools if one also considers the contribution made to schools by local amateur sports clubs. I hope that I may address a few remarks to that end.

The CCPR report, to which several noble Lords have referred, also said that the Government are addressing only half the equation if clubs are not considered along with schools, in particular the funding of clubs. Most noble Lords will be well aware of the important contribution that amateur community sports clubs make to school sports. Indeed, it is a growing contribution as the level of sports activity within schools themselves declines, as we have heard today.

Some of the advantages of having vibrant local sports clubs are as follows. Out of term time, sport is only available to most pupils through local amateur sports clubs. They often have much better facilities than the schools, whether kit or pitches; the coaching is invariably better. Sometimes the coaches are ready and willing to go into schools. The hard competitive experiences that pupils will receive competing in their local sports clubs is valuable. The noble Lord, Lord Cowdrey, referred to the concentration factor.

There is wider socialisation to be had in clubs, across the age groups. There is also the learning of the importance of making a contribution to the club, without which the club will fail. There are the parental links that clubs so readily provide and which are hugely valuable and underpin good sporting achievement both in schools and outside.

Many clubs provide sports facilities that are simply not available in schools. In my own home town of Sudbury, for example, although 30 miles inland we have an excellent rowing club which trains young children from the local schools.

There is the vibrant link that the clubs provide between schools and community. We all bewail regularly in other debates the decline in community and the lack of awareness of citizenship. This is a real bridge that carries young people into the community, where they mix with all sorts of other people. It can become, and often is thank God, a life-long obsession where one eventually declines from being a player into being a provider, maker of tea, marker of pitches, fixer of fixtures. I play in the Sudbury Fifth XI--one has to be over 50 years of age or under 16-- and an excellent side it is.

I refer to the remarkable speech made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the NCVO annual general meeting in February. It was remarkable for its vision and the extra concessions he announced for charity. I sincerely hope, as raised in this House in earlier debates, that the Minister and the Government will carry through to a conclusion, so to speak, the efforts that are now being made to help local community amateur sports clubs to do the job I have described even better by allowing them the same tax exemptions--income tax, capital gains tax, inheritance tax--as charities. That is hugely important, and doubly important because it encourages local citizens to make contributions to their own institutions. Where that happens one can be quite sure that the contributions will be well aimed, well applied and well policed because people do not like wasting their charitable funds. I hope that the Minister will consider that point.

Photo of Lord Addington Lord Addington Liberal Democrat 8:42, 1 March 2000

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Cowdrey, for initiating this debate and congratulate him on attracting speakers. Very little has been said in this debate with which I disagree.

As I was jotting down notes, the one thing that came across was that everyone thinks that sport is a good thing. That is rather reassuring. Everyone is agreed that it has gone wrong as far as schools are concerned. The crack that has occurred is probably as a result of the Education Act 1988. That is probably the collapse of something that was already struggling. Academic institutions such as schools faced a variety of fashions and academic pressures. The idea of a healthy body had been pushed on to the back burner. Finally, the 1988 Act killed it off because teachers had to count their hours--and their voluntary activity, which was propping up an inadequate system, disappeared. We all should take the blame for that because we helped to set the tone. The Conservative Party has talked about the fact that we have non-competitive sport. Non-competitive sport is exercise. Sport is a competition. That is why we do it. That is why we enjoy it. It is fun. It is a competition. One is testing oneself against someone else. One hopes that teams are evenly matched. That is surely the essence of sport.

We have teachers who are not providing this base. That is something about which the Labour Party might have something to say. The Liberal Democrats in the middle will say, "We told you so" on both counts, but they will get no prizes for that.

If we accept that we all share the blame, we can then try to see what can be put right. The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, showed us one example of the way forward. Unfortunately, we cannot follow that now because we have to start from where we are, not from where we should be. The fact is that one has to integrate and take these things seriously across the board. One has to be sure of what is going on.

As for the Minister of Sport--I have referred to this before-- no matter how good that person is, he is a very small fish in a very big pool. That person has to attract the attention of the Department for Education and Employment, and of the Treasury.

The speech of my noble friend Lord Phillips about small clubs was absolutely apposite. It is something I have raised before. As we cannot expect teachers to do this, it is the small clubs which carry on and which provide the team organisation and the diversity of sport which modern society demands. We are no longer satisfied with kicking a football around, hitting a cricket ball or a tennis ball. We have a much greater and more diverse sporting world in front of us. We need to interest people in all the other minority sports. Apparently, in certain parts of the country, Rugby Union and Rugby League although well established are minority sports.

We have to try to achieve a situation where school teachers are trained in creating that sampling base. It must start in primary school unless one is prepared to give it about double the time in secondary school. If we are going to do that, we must look to the training of teachers--to new teachers coming into the profession and to teachers already in service. If we do not do that we cannot succeed.

Parents who are enthusiastic about sport will take their children to the small clubs. The haves and have-nots will grow dramatically apart. If we allow that to happen, we will create a couch potato child in front of the television or video screen who will go on to become much more a part of the problem. I refer to the people who talk about watching sport as opposed to playing it. If we do not address that, we are going nowhere on this issue.

Schools cannot provide every single participation activity as they did in the past. We have seen the destruction of the past. We cannot go back to that. It just is not going to happen. We must ensure that the whole community is involved, and we must look at the situation as a whole.

I have heard the Minister previously on the subject of school playing fields and other activities. He gave a very reasonable answer, saying that certain small sports fields are now being disposed of because they are not needed any more, or are being sold off in order to provide an all-weather pitch somewhere else. That is a decent answer. He also said that sometimes the school itself no longer exists. That hits the issue on the head. It is not just an educational and school problem; the whole of that community is losing an asset.

The degree of consensus within this debate tells me that we must either all have it very right or very wrong. I wonder what the Minister thinks is the correct interpretation.

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Conservative 8:48, 1 March 2000

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for introducing this debate. Like the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, when I was a child never in my wildest dreams did I think I would end up batting in the same team as my noble friend. It is a delight to be able to do so tonight.

It is a timely debate because we, on these Benches, launched our own blue paper on the future of sport last night. Copies are available in the Opposition Whip's Office. We want to deliver a commonsense future for sport. We still await publication of the Government's strategy for sport. I hope that the Minister may be able to give further information about the publication date tonight.

Today's is a timely debate following upon Sport England's publication of the disturbing results of its latest survey this week. It found that schoolchildren spend far less time on sport than they did only five years ago. It highlights 10 causes for concern about the state of physical education in both primary and secondary schools in England.

One issue on which we are all agreed is that sport matters in a child's education. It teaches our children life skills and it helps to keep them healthy. Most of us first experience organised sport in school and it helps to shape our attitude to sport as we progress through our educational careers and well beyond. It is thus vitally important that children are encouraged to become involved in sport at an early age, especially since less intensive leisure activities, such as computer games, are now more available to children. Schools should aim to make sport as enjoyable, wide ranging and well taught as possible, since schools foster recreational and international athletes alike.

As I argued in an earlier debate, it is vital that when we talk about using sport as a vehicle for social inclusion we avoid treating it solely as a therapy. It should be a discipline for excellence, too. In promoting sport as something we can all do, we must not forget to promote it, too, as something that only some people can do very well. A number of those are present this evening.

I was interested to hear from my noble friend Lord Glentoran about the successes in Northern Ireland in producing sportswomen and men of high calibre. I hope that we are able to learn from that example.

Sport England's survey points out the importance of having,

"experienced and qualified teachers who can motivate and help young people acquire the skills and knowledge that will enable them to go on to maximise their sporting potential".

I was interested to hear the words of the noble Lord, Lord Dormand of Easington, about the issue of training teachers. The Sport England survey discovered that 95 per cent of primary schools had no full-time specialist teaching staff for PE lessons--I appreciate the reasons given by the noble Lord for that being so--and 86 per cent did not even have part-time specialist staff. Primary school teachers now receive as little as 30 hours training in their four years at teacher training college. The number of PE specialists in training is set to drop by 30 per cent in the next three years. There will be 1,200 fewer people pursuing those courses. What do the Government believe should be done to reverse that decline?

In general, children receive a declining amount of physical education each week. Falls in the amount of time spent in PE lessons are particularly pronounced in primary schools. Only 11 per cent of children aged six to eight spent two hours or more a week in PE lessons last year. That is down almost a third on the figures from five years ago. My noble friend Lord MacLaurin was right to say that it is critical to shift the emphasis on sport to the primary sector.

Next Wednesday is International Women's Day. That caused me to reflect in particular about the participation by girls in sport and PE. Reports such as Sport Uncovered have had some very worrying things to say about what is called the gender factor; namely, that girls give up sport, particularly competitive sport, earlier than boys, given half the chance. I have concerns about the trend in schools to let girls opt out of competitive or team sports. It is on the basis that the girls do not like it and can get perfectly healthy exercise by taking part in dance or aerobics. But I do wonder what this will mean for the ability of future generations of women to compete effectively in gaining employment in the business and professional world when they have missed out on an opportunity given by competitive sports to learn teamwork and leadership skills.

Surely our overall objective must be to restore sport to the heart of educational institutions. The question for all of us is how we and the Government can help and not hinder this process. I look forward to the Minister's response.

Photo of Lord McIntosh of Haringey Lord McIntosh of Haringey Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords) 8:55, 1 March 2000

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cowdrey, for giving the House the opportunity to consider the important issues of the role of sport in schools, which was his subject matter, and the role of schools in sport, which my noble friend Lady Massey, rightly, I think, added to the subject matter. It reminds me of the Bellman in The Hunting of the Snark:

"No one shall speak to the man at the helm".

The Bellman added:

"The man at the helm shall speak to no man".

Perhaps I may find myself in that position.

It is particularly appropriate that the noble Lord should have opened the debate. After all, his outstanding career was launched at Tonbridge school, where I understand he was in the school First XI at the age of 13. It could be argued that he gave at least as much to his school in sporting terms as he took from it. For those of us with more modest sporting abilities--in my case, much more modest, although it was cruel of the noble Lord, Lord Sandberg, to remind me of my minor jest about bar billiards--we have to take what we can from the opportunities that are available to us, in school or anywhere else. One point made by the noble Lord, Lord Cowdrey, and echoed throughout the debate, concerned the importance of sport both in terms of fitness and in terms of character building and discipline. In order to achieve that, sport has to be enjoyable and fun. That was recognised throughout the debate.

The simple answer to the noble Lord's Unstarred Question is that the Government place very high importance on school sport. We are committed to improving the quality of teaching and learning in physical education and school sport. We have begun to put in place plans to help schools to build up their expertise to help all young people reach their potential in the sports and activities which they enjoy.

The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, referred to the role of team sports in other activities. I hope she will agree that when we are talking to 14 to 16 year-olds we have to give them a wide range of choice. If that choice includes, as well as team sports, gymnastics, dance and outdoor activities, that probably is more likely to bring more young people into those activities which have the benefit of building fitness and character than if the restriction is to team sports alone. Good physical education and sport is not an optional extra. It must sit at the heart of the curriculum.

Much has been said about the curriculum as an issue. It is entirely appropriate that we should have had a number of references to the Sport England national survey which has just been published. My noble friend Lord Faulkner described it as a contradictory and disturbing picture. He is right. There are clearly some very bad findings in the report and it is only right to acknowledge them. But there are some good things as well.

My noble friend Lord Dormand was concerned that a wide range of sports should be available. The number of sports available in schools is still about eight, both for boys and for girls, and has been the same since the previous survey in 1994. The survey showed that 87 per cent of children play sport frequently outside school. That has not changed since 1994. Indeed, membership of local sports clubs by children has increased from 42 per cent to 46 per cent. I do not know whether that encourages my noble friend Lord Hoyle. The other encouraging figure that I drew from the report is an increase from 62 per cent to 67 per cent in the proportion of children playing sport in their lunch breaks and from 74 per cent to 79 per cent in children playing sport after school. Although some elements of the picture are disturbing, there are some encouraging aspects.

On the issue of the curriculum, it is true that it is now an aspiration that all pupils will spend a minimum of two hours a week on physical activities within and outside the curriculum. The reason why it is an aspiration is that, generally speaking, we have tried to be less prescriptive for all subjects in the national curriculum than we were previously, and we have allowed that for some schools there could be a different balance. As for the two hours referred to by my noble friend Lord Puttnam, many schools already achieve that and more, but the Government want to see the two-hour minimum offered in all schools. I hope that will be seen as an aspiration which has some teeth to it.

In order to achieve that, we have taken a number of initiatives to which I want briefly to refer. First, there is a programme to appoint up to 600 school sports co-ordinators, who will have a major impact on the development of physical education in school sport, both in primary and secondary schools. I entirely take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord MacLaurin, about the importance of primary schools and starting from the primary school. The co-ordinators will organise programmes to bring suitably qualified specialist coaches into schools to support teachers and coach pupils. They will organise inter-school competitions, build links between groups of schools, and bring families together with schools and local authority sports development officers and governing bodies of sport. I was pleased to hear from my noble friend Lord Hoyle about the role of Warrington rugby league football club in schools.

The co-ordinators will be in place over a period of four years. Both in schools and in out-of-school-hours clubs, they will have a great deal to contribute to sport in school--and sport for schoolchildren, which should be the definition that we are talking about. After all, £160 million is available from the New Opportunities Fund and £80 million from the DfEE standards fund to support out-of-school learning, including sport, focusing on communities with the greatest needs.

A second initiative to which I want to refer is the provision of specialist sports colleges. I acknowledge, as the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, said, that Northern Ireland has had such specialist schools for a long period of time, but we are building up the number of specialist sports colleges. There are 37 up and running now; 23 more have been designated; and we plan to have over 100 sports colleges by September 2003. They will receive additional capital and recurrent funding from the Department for Education and Employment to raise standards in their specialist subject and across the whole curriculum. They will also work with primary and secondary schools, sharing good practice and providing guidance and support to other teachers. They will work with local sports administrators and sports providers, aiming to provide a seamless pathway of quality sporting opportunities, from curriculum sport right through to sports clubs and beyond. They will provide opportunities in physical education and sport for all pupils, not just those with particular talent and ability.

A number of noble Lords made reference to the need for better teacher training and for in-service training, as was referred to in relation to Northern Ireland. That is what the Youth Sports Trust does. Sue Campbell of the Youth Sports Trust has been appointed to a joint post between the Department for Education and Employment and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which we are convinced will beef up the activity of both departments. So far as concerns initial teacher training, the Teacher Training Agency is reviewing DfEE Circular 4/98. We shall make sure that the Teacher Training Agency is aware of the concerns expressed and ask it to do what it can to address them.

Sports facilities present a difficult problem. The Sport England survey quoted one in four teachers as saying that sports facilities are inadequate. That must be a starting-point for change, and, as the noble Lord, Lord Cowdrey, rightly said, with all speed. Of course, some schools with poor facilities do a marvellous job with them. But that is not an argument for having poor facilities. The most important thing I have to say, apart from mentioning the general increase in educational expenditure, is that schools have been under-represented in terms of lottery funding. In 1998-99 the amount of lottery money going to schools and colleges from the sports lottery fund fell from £31 million to £14 million, and Sport England is committed to putting that right. It will now devote at least 20 per cent of its lottery resources over the next 10 years to youth sport projects.

I turn now to the vexed issue of playing fields. I do not want to make this a party political issue and shall try very hard not to do so. The changes that we have made involve local authorities being required to consult Sport England on all planning applications. That has been happening. There has been a significant increase in the number of local authorities consulting Sport England. The DfEE has made it a requirement that all state schools should seek approval from the Secretary of State for the sale of playing fields, including consultation with community and other user groups. I take the point of the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and my noble friend Lord Dormand that it is not enough to say that, because a school is closed, the playing field is not needed. Community use and adequacy of provision in the area as a whole ought to be the considerations. The Secretary of State for Education gives approval only when the funds raised are ploughed back into sport and education, and where remaining playing fields fully meet the needs of the school and community, both now and in the future.

I shall not go over the figures for those playing fields that have been disposed of. The figures that I want to leave with the House are these. First, of the applications considered by Sport England in 1996-97, 13 were approved against its objections; whereas between 1998 and 1999 only six were approved against its objections. That is a significant measure. In addition, because of the new legislation from the Department for Education and Employment, the number of school playing field disposals has dropped from 40 a month to only 12. One could be purist about it and say that no playing field should be disposed of. However, I hope that noble Lords regard that as a very significant improvement.

I have run out of time. I express gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, for his praise of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's speech to NCVO. The charitable status of sports clubs is a difficult problem, and if it can be resolved adequately it will make a huge difference to the provision for young people. But I hope that all of the comments that I have made show how seriously the Government take the issue of physical education and sport in schools. We have a duty to ensure that children learn at a very early age the benefits of physical education and sport and how much fun it can be. Then, and only then--we are not there yet--we shall build a solid foundation on which to develop our sporting heroes and stars of the future, and a nation of confident and fit young people who have a real interest in the development of their communities.

House adjourned at nine minutes past nine o'clock.