Thank you. We have an education department that sends people with expertise to schools and we send our players, which helps to develop the interest of schools in sport generally. It is not just about rugby league, it is about other sports as well.
Everyone who has spoken today, whatever view they have taken, has agreed on one thing: school sport is absolutely essential to all of us. It is good for the health of children and it is good in reducing obesity, about which we talked earlier. Nothing is better than engaging in school sports. That is the way to have healthy children with healthy bodies, and it gives them an interest as well. As the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, said, when we won the Olympics in Singapore, we undertook to inspire young people through sport. I think that is essential.
How have we gone about it? One way was setting up the school sport partnerships in 2000. We should look at what was done and it is right to ask how the Government are going to replace what was done then. They used collaboration between secondary and primary schools-with the secondary school as a hub for the primary school. This meant that you were looking not only at one school, but at an area, where people could develop their sports activities-not only the school within its curriculum, but the curricula of all the other primary schools in the area.
That led to quite a number of things occurring. In primary schools, it not only encouraged those who loved sport, it was also to encourage children who disliked sport-as my noble friend Lord Haskel indicated in the boxes he was ticking-so they engaged in physical activity. It has been highly successful in that respect, because by doing it in this way, having one school as a hub, and covering an area, it enabled a wide variety of sports to be offered. My noble friend Lord Haskel referred to the fact that not only did it offer traditional sports-and he made a plea for cycling-but also other activities, because of the school sport partnerships. Fishing was referred to earlier, also archery, golf, riding, and basketball, and that enables more children to participate in different sports. It has been a success story. So I cannot understand why it is being abandoned. It also brought in leadership within the school, leadership within the primary school, with older children being able to encourage younger children to participate-obviously with the supervision of teachers.
As a result, the school sport partnerships have such a wide appeal and are working. On the
"the number of children involved in inter-school competitions has increased"- and I want to emphasise this-
"has increased by 1.63 million; the number involved in competition within schools".
The Government say they are going to have such competition, but this has already increased by 1.15 million, so success is there. The editorial goes on to say,
"the proportion of children in state schools fulfilling the curriculum requirement of at least two hours' PE per week increased from 25% to 95%".
So it has increased from 25 per cent in 2001 when we introduced the school sport partnerships to 95 per cent now. Surely, whichever way you look at that, it is a success story. That is why I cannot understand the Government taking the attitude they are. Unfortunately, while 93 per cent of children are in state schools, this has largely been looked at by Ministers who have had private education. That is the unfortunate aspect of it. I do not think they understand what they are going to destroy, particularly the Secretary of State for Education whose achievements-or lack of achievements-were described by the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, earlier.
There have been some protests of course. I understand the Secretary of State for Health was quite upset about what is happening. The Deputy Prime Minister was asked if all the coalition had been involved in taking this decision. I am not sure they were. I want to ask the Minister one pertinent question: the decision has been taken, but has the Secretary of State for Education visited a school sport partnerships? My understanding is that he has not visited to see it on the ground, and that is one of the difficulties that we face.
The abolition of the school sport partnerships-which I have described as a success-is a decision that has been taken hastily, is ill-thought-out, and will put the progress that has been made in school sport back a decade.