Sport Northern Ireland has a number of programmes and initiatives that aim directly or in part to encourage young children and teenagers to participate in sport inside and outside school. Those include an Activ8 programme, an active communities programme, leadership training in adventure sports, governing body and athlete support programmes, capital programmes to help to address sports infrastructure deficits, and surveys of timetabled PE in primary and post-primary schools.
Sport Northern Ireland also partnered DCAL in developing my new 10-year strategy for sport, ‘Sport Matters: The Northern Ireland Strategy for Sport and Physical Recreation 2009-2019’, which I launched on 13 May. Sport Matters contains targets and actions designed to encourage children and young people to participate in sport inside and outside school. As part of the delivery of Sport Matters, I have invited Sport Northern Ireland to join me at a meeting that I have arranged with the Minister of Education, Caitríona Ruane, to discuss how DCAL and the Department of Education can encourage better use of school and community sports facilities in a way that will help to encourage children and young people to participate in sport inside and outside schools. That meeting is scheduled to take place on 7 June.
Furthermore, my predecessor, Gregory Campbell MP MLA, was committed to using the power of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games to inspire children and young people to adopt healthier lifestyles through sport. Sport Northern Ireland, through its programmes and initiatives, is helping the Department to deliver that legacy and, in doing so, is helping to tackle the major issue of childhood obesity.
That issue is on the agenda; it is the purpose of the meeting. I am not saying that, to borrow the Member’s phrase, we will reach agreement. That is not the situation that we will have. We need to find mechanisms, patterns of good practice and ways of doing things, and those will develop over time. There are already examples of good practice in quite a number of schools, and we need to encourage other schools to learn from those examples. There are other issues that we will want to discuss at the meeting.
There is an issue in relation to the activities of young people and the opportunities in the curriculum. Recommendations came forward from last year’s Education and Training Inspectorate report on children and young people’s interest in sport. That piece of evaluative work was commissioned from the inspectorate by my Department. The report’s recommendations, particularly those calling for greater collaboration between Departments, the building of links between schools and clubs and the widening of the PE curriculum, are wholly consistent with the targets and actions set out in the Sport Matters strategy.
When the inspectorate published the report last July, it specifically stated that there needed to be widespread support for Sport Matters if the recommendations were to be implemented. It is key that we encourage schools, within and outside the curriculum, to maximise opportunities. Some of those issues fall more readily within the Department of Education’s remit, and that is why we need, through Sport Matters, to have a cross-departmental group to work on them. Perhaps the Member should direct her question to the Minister of Education.