Soft Drinks Industry Levy: Funding for Sport in Schools — [Sir David Amess in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:30 pm on 10th January 2017.

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Photo of Justin Tomlinson Justin Tomlinson Conservative, North Swindon 2:30 pm, 10th January 2017

That is a powerful point, and I agree with the sentiment of it. I would not necessarily use the sugar tax money, but that is something that the Government could consider as a wider point. It is a fair point, and actually some of the head teachers in some of the more deprived parts of my constituency have raised similar concerns about what happens to the children not just with regard to eating, but on wider issues throughout the holidays.

As it stands, there will be £285 million to extend the school day in secondary schools in relation to sport, £160 million to double the primary school physical education budget, and £10 million to expand breakfast clubs. That was welcomed by Emma Boggis, the chief executive of the Sport and Recreation Alliance, who said it will

“deliver more opportunities to get children of a young age active” and

“to stay active in later life.”

That is an important point. We must recognise that the opportunities we create must be regular and sustainable, because we also recognise that if the Government’s intention for the sugar tax works out and all the manufacturers reformulate their products and customers switch from full-sugar versions to zero-sugar versions, the amount of money will diminish. We must therefore ensure that the money is spent to seed regular sustainable activities. This is where I bring forward my rather reasonable—in my unbiased opinion—asks.

This has all come about from a visit to Oakhurst Community Primary School, which hosts the Draycott sports camp, run by Mark Draycott, a PE teacher at the school. The school runs after-school clubs, weekend clubs and school holiday clubs. There are lots of sports camps and I am sure that all of us as MPs have visited them at some point, but this one sets itself apart by a country mile. More than 200 primary schoolchildren were being active each and every single day in the last summer holidays, of whom slightly more were girls than boys—that is something for Sport England and the Sport Minister to recognise and celebrate, because that is a particular area of challenge—and they were engaging in all sorts of different sports.

A summary of how the camps work is that they run during every school holiday from 9 am to 6 pm, costing £12.50 a day, which is probably the cheapest childcare that a parent will find. They create an active environment that is inclusive and engaging for all abilities. That is vital, because a particularly sports-minded child probably has sports-minded parents and will already be signed up to a football, rugby or netball club. The camps are for the vast majority of children who are not necessarily sports-minded and who are the most likely to become obese.

The camps focus on helping children to be more active and introducing them to new sports—not only football and netball, but cricket, athletics, golf, lacrosse and so on—so that they can replicate what inspires them on the television. I visited a camp during the Olympics and saw them recreate the things that were inspiring them on the TV—it was amazing. Because Mark Draycott is a teacher, and because the majority of his support staff have connections to the school or are teachers themselves, they have the expertise to identify and support those children who are starting to fall by the wayside, and who are not naturally gifted or naturally enthusiastic about sports, to make sure that they remain engaged. They concentrate on killing the fear factor that some children have when playing sports and ensuring that they enjoy the activity. They are increasing participation among girls and bucking those national trends.

I highlight that because we have an opportunity to replicate this. As Mark Draycott said when he was interviewed on “BBC Points West” this morning, the camps should be not only at Oakhurst in Swindon, but all over the country; there should be hundreds and hundreds of them. They are sustainable, because the taxpayer is not paying him to do this—he is running the camps as his own organisation. However, the Government can help. First, anybody who wishes to set up one of these camps will need to build up numbers. We could therefore look to incentivise other people to do the same sort of thing as Mark by reducing the charge for hiring the school facilities at the beginning, until they build up the numbers and become sustainable in their own right and can keep going.

We also need to attract more good quality physical education teachers into the profession. We had a chronic shortage of PE teachers, although more are beginning to come in now. The beauty of this situation is that Mark Draycott came from a sporting background—he was a non-league sports player. The coalition Government tried to attract troops to become teachers, but it turned out that there were not millions of troops who wished to become teachers. However, there are many non-league sports stars who are minded and who, with the right incentives and the right instructions, could go on to become very good PE teachers in schools. I urge the Minister to look at that potential wealth of talent from whom, if we advertise to them, we could potentially recruit some very good people.

There could be lots of Draycott sports camps all over the country, which would be fantastic for those who wish to pay and can afford to do so—as I have seen, for 200 children every single day. That is something that we can replicate. However, I wish to go even further. I would also like to see all school facilities made available for free between 4 pm and 6 pm to any voluntary organisation that wishes to use them. For example, if some parents get together and wish to put on a netball, football or basketball club—I do not mind which, so long as it is a constructive activity for young people—between the hours of 4 pm and 6 pm, we should not charge them. Some of the sugar tax money can then be used to compensate the loss of income to schools. That is not a peak time for school hire fees, because school sporting facilities are generally used when offices and factories shut at 6 pm, which is when schools would expect to make their income. I therefore suspect that compensation would be only a modest part of that income, but it would remove the barrier that many enthusiastic parents find.

I know that, because I spent 10 years as a borough councillor in Swindon representing a new build area with private finance initiative schools. There were limited leisure facilities, yet there were fantastic sporting facilities that the taxpayer was paying for but which we could not afford to access at a time when they were simply not being used. That does not make sense. We can find people willing to give up their time; there are hundreds of sports clubs across all of our constituencies that would seize the opportunity to provide constructive opportunities that will make our children active, that will remain in place once the money starts to diminish and, crucially, that will help busy parents.