Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Local Government (Experimental Arrangements) Bill [H.L.]

Lord Hunt of Tanworth: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to enable local authorities to operate experimental arrangements with respect to the way in which they take decisions, including arrangements with respect to elected mayors and the discharge of functions by single members of authorities; and for connected purposes. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a first time.--(Lord Hunt of Tanworth.)

On Question, Bill read a first time, and to be printed.

Sport in Schools

3.9 p.m.

Lord McNally rose to call attention to the importance of sport in schools; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I realise that some noble Lords are leaving the Chamber, probably to go for their afternoon session at the gym, so I shall give them a few moments in which to do so. I thank all noble Lords who have expressed interest in this debate. I look forward particularly to hearing the maiden speeches of the noble Lords, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, Lord Burlison, Lord Monro of Langholm and Lord Cowdrey

26 Nov 1997 : Column 1002

of Tonbridge. On a personal note, perhaps I may say that the idea of opening the batting on the same team sheet as Colin Cowdrey is one childhood fantasy fulfilled. The noble Lord, Lord Monro of Langholm, is a distinguished former sports Minister. The noble Lord, Lord Burlison, has played professional football and the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, brings both health and local government expertise to our deliberations. We look forward to their contributions.

I start by asking whether school sport has recovered from the scars left by two pieces of political ideology inflicted on it during the 1980s. I refer to the selling of school playing fields which was forced on local education authorities by the then government, and to the political correctness of some Left-wing local authorities which suggested that competitive sports were socially damaging. Of the two, it seems to me that the sale of school playing fields has done the more lasting damage. Indeed, it may still be happening as cash-strapped local authorities rob Peter to pay Paul.

My second concern is that the rupture in relations between teachers and their employers which took place in the 1980s, together with more tightly drawn contracts of employment, more specified curriculum content and the increased bureaucratic demands placed on teachers, have ended the easy-going add-on which made teachers give freely of their time to school sports.

My third concern is the paradox that at a time when sport in its various manifestations has never been wealthier and is receiving ever-increasing amounts of money from television sponsorship, school sports are still run on a shoestring and depend on voluntary good will.

A year ago, under the last government, the then Minister responsible for sport, Mr. Iain Sproat, expressed concern that the Department for Education and Employment did not really have its heart in the policy of two hours of compulsory PE. At that time--only a year ago--he expressed concern that the average 14 year-old spent an hour a week playing some kind of sport and 25 hours watching television. He also expressed regret that some 5,000 playing fields had been sold during the 1980s and early 1990s.

However, the last Administration had a death-bed repentance with the publication of Raising the Game in the summer of 1994. By the time Labour came to power in May of this year, the new Government were firmly committed to their policy document, termed Labour's Sporting Nation.

So, in place of the ideological conflict of the 1980s, we have a real opportunity to create a long-term strategy for school sport which can enjoy cross-party support at all levels of government, local and national. However, to succeed, the Government must be coherent. Is the Minister satisfied that there is sufficient interdepartmental coherence and co-operation between the departments of health and education, the sports ministry and the Department of the Environment? Will the noble Baroness clarify again the Government's attitude to selling off playing fields and, in particular, to Ministers' willingness to call in planned sales?

26 Nov 1997 : Column 1003

Is the Minister worried that according to Professor Neil Armstrong, head of the Children's Health and Exercise Research Centre at Exeter University, the number of 14 year-olds in Britain who do not have at least two hours a week of PE has doubled in the past decade? Fewer than half of our children do PE for the recommended two hours. Pupils spend an average of just 106 minutes, including changing time, on structured exercise, while French youngsters enjoy twice that amount of time. Britain came 13th in a survey on physical education in 25 countries which was carried out by Exeter University.

By "coherence" I should like to know what plans the Minister has for making two hours of physical education a reality. How does she propose to deal with high truancy rates where provisions do exist? What proposals does the Minister have for expanding the number of teachers with coaching and PE qualifications? There is concern that some teacher training programmes currently in place provide no specific training for PE, yet teachers are expected to take their class for physical education once in post. What proposals does the Minister have for increasing the number of women teachers with sports qualifications? We already have the warning from Professor Armstrong and others that a generation of youngsters is storing up health problems. To quote Professor Armstrong:

    "If you are going to have an active adult population, the time to start has to be in childhood".

In promoting sport in schools, I can recommend to the Government no better set of marching orders than those issued by that excellent body, the National Council for Schools' Sports. Its plan calls for the educational basis of school sport to be recognised; all pupils to be given an opportunity to participate in sport; all pupils to be given the opportunity to attain their potential; teachers to be recognised as a key element in the extended curriculum with those involved in extra curricular activities being encouraged and supported; and a recognised structure for school sport at all levels. It also urges that appropriate partnerships be utilised.

I should like to concentrate on the last point about encouraging appropriate partnerships. I have said that I am not talking mainly about resources, although I recognise that some of my demands have resource implications. However, I am equally concerned that the money that is already in sport should be used wisely. I have mentioned the millions of pounds being poured into sport, especially into football, by television. I sometimes wonder whether there is not a case for a windfall tax on football transfers so that some of the money now going into inflated transfer fees could be channelled into the development of sport at school level.

I welcome the publication by the Football Association of its study, Charter for Quality, and in particular its declared aim of supporting soccer in schools. I welcome the idea of awarding charter mark status to schools meeting the required criteria. If I have a concern about both the FA approach and the approach of some of our other national sporting bodies, it is their over-emphasis on the elites. Of course, we all want a system which spots and nurtures talent. We all want to see Olympic

26 Nov 1997 : Column 1004

gold medals by the armful, the World Cup coming home, the Australians thrashed at cricket and the New Zealand rugby players humbled.

However, national sporting bodies should not be seeking too early a recruitment. Every child has a right to a sporting life where sport is part of education, development and fun--not a career choice made at the age of eight. With that proviso, I welcome the FA's initiative, as I do a parallel initiative from the England and Wales Cricket Board in its national development plan for cricket, on which I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Cowdrey, will elaborate.

Returning to the theme of partnership, we can enhance the value of money and effort already in sport by greater partnership. It could take many forms, such as better and more school and community involvement by professional sports clubs. I believe that the soccer clubs have a particular role to play. There could be better co-operation between sports clubs and school sport at local level with a far greater use of shared facilities. My noble friend Lord Addington will develop that theme later. There could be more co-operation within different levels of education; for example, rural primary schools could use the facilities of the secondary schools that they feed.

Business should be encouraged to increase its sponsorship of sport. I commend, for example, the Royal Sun Alliance Panathlon Challenge, which is aimed at encouraging schools to compete against each other in a range of sports chosen to suit limited sports facilities. That initiative has encouraged a number of inner-city schools to return to competitive sports. An integral part of the scheme is its £1,000 coaching bursary for teachers. That scheme is part of a wider Sports Match initiative, sponsored by Nationwide and aimed at encouraging the commercial sponsorship of grass-roots sports.

I have a final point on funding. It has been put to me that there is no guarantee that sport will be a major recipient of lottery funding after 2002. I cannot believe that the Treasury, even in its wildest fantasies, will not continue to make sports development a major beneficiary of lottery funds, but perhaps the Minister can clarify the point.

Because there is a long list of speakers and many very well qualified contributors yet to come I shall not weary the House by discussing the need to streamline sports administration to cut out bureaucratic waste, although future speakers with greater experience than mine may be able to speak to that. I am very well aware that I have barely touched on the need to encourage more women teachers to be trained in sports skills so as to encourage more girls to participate in sport. I point out that apart from the noble Baroness who is to reply there are no female speakers in the debate. Sport is not just for boys. We must have a system that encourages girls to participate fully in sport. I hope that noble Lords can develop some of the points that I have raised.

In the words of the great Bill Shankley, football is not a matter of life and death; it is more important than that. Having spent 40 years supporting Blackpool Football Club I must be a little more philosophical than

26 Nov 1997 : Column 1005

that. But sport is important to the life of the nation, and it is important to a healthy and enjoyable childhood. We can all play a part in making sure that this and future generations benefit from all the pleasures that sport can provide and all of the lessons that it can teach both about individual development and making a contribution to the success of the team. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

3.21 p.m.

Lord Skidelsky: My Lords, I have two apologies to make: first, for popping up at an unexpected time; and, secondly, to my noble friend Lord Cowdrey for inserting myself between him and the maiden speech to which I know all noble Lords look forward. We are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord McNally, for introducing this debate in a typically well-informed and attractive speech.

That sport in schools is in a state of decline is beyond dispute. Although physical education is a compulsory part of the national curriculum the amount of time devoted to physical education and sport in schools has shown a steady decline for all ages. I should like to give a few figures to reinforce some that have already been given. In 1987, 72 per cent. of 14 to 16 year-olds did at least two hours of physical education a week. By 1994 less than 25 per cent. did so. British secondary school- children spend an average of 85 minutes a week on physical education--less than any other country in the European Union. About half of this (40 minutes a week) is spent on what used to be called school games. That is a pitiful total when it is remembered that that includes changing and travelling time. Extra-curricular sport--that played outside school hours--has been fading away. The Secondary Heads Association points to a 75 per cent. drop in extra-curricular sporting activities in 1995. Not only is the total time spent on physical education and sport astonishingly small, but as pupils get older it steadily decreases.

Why has this happened? It is true that resources are tighter than they were. Between 1977 and 1992 the number of physical education teachers fell from 41,800 to 24,000, although the total number of teachers remained the same. The national curriculum guarantees state pupils access to playing fields, but about 5,000 of these have been sold off since 1981 and an estimated 2,600 are under threat.

Others point to the impact of the teaching contract in reducing teachers' willingness to take out-of-school games, coupled with the extra pressure of paperwork, testing and examinations which accompanied the introduction of the national curriculum. I think it is a fair criticism that the national curriculum was overloaded and generated an astonishing amount of unnecessary paper.

Still, in the end it is local councils, schools and teachers who decide how to balance their budgets and allocate teaching time between different activities. The decisions taken against sport, particularly competitive sport, reflect a deep-seated bias against team games, competition and excellence, which I am afraid runs

26 Nov 1997 : Column 1006

strongest in the party opposite. Writing in Education Today, Peter Harrison, General Secretary of the Physical Education Association, quotes with approval James Thurber's saying that if a thing is worth doing it is worth doing badly. That is witty and thought-provoking but it is pretty shocking to have it enshrined as the symbol of sports policy. School sport appears to be good for Labour, on three conditions: that it is low quality, that it is anti-competitive, and that it includes everyone and everything--in short, that it is politically correct. From such a philosophy national champions will never emerge.

Does the decline in school sport matter? It does, though not, in my view, for some of the reasons commonly given. School sport sails more and more under the fitness or health flag. Of course, to play a sport really well you need to be fit, but you get fit to play a sport; you do not pursue a sport to get fit. I speak about this with particular feeling. My back has never really recovered from years spent on the squash court. It went again this morning, no doubt in anticipation of my debut on the Front Benches. If I go into spasm as a result of years of sport I hope that noble Lords will not become too alarmed.

The reasons for school sport have little to do with health or fitness per se. To think of sport simply as preventive medicine is to be rather like Victorian schoolmasters who advocated organised games as an antidote to moral vice. Games are valuable in themselves and for the pleasure that they give.

It is often argued that we must have school sport to produce Olympic medallists, winning soccer, rugby and cricket teams, tennis champions and so on. I am not convinced of that. Most continental schools do not do sport, as opposed to physical education, and they manage to produce their share of medallists. Even in this country clubs are much more important for producing professional sportspeople. The previous government announced that it would set up a British academy of sport to be funded by National Lottery money. This Government have adopted the idea but renamed the academy the UK sports institute--a triumph of presentation over substance. I much preferred the previous title. It was--is--to be a network of super training clubs for gifted athletes. No one yet knows where its headquarters or regional centres are to be. Perhaps the Government will get round to telling us some time. It is a good idea and the original inspiration, for which we owe a debt of gratitude to the previous Prime Minister, should not be drowned in the clamour of special interests. If we want to go further, for example by starting up specialist sports' schools as they had in the former communist countries, and as they still have in the United States, it is up to the sports bodies to decide to do it and raise the money.

School sport does not require this type of justification. We want to preserve the British tradition of schools as providing an all-round education, giving non-academic pupils a chance to shine and offering a training in the social as well as the academic virtues. In particular, I emphasise the social virtues fostered by our traditional team games: soccer, rugby and cricket, with their mixture of competition, co-operation and loyalty. Many

26 Nov 1997 : Column 1007

of the abiding metaphors of our culture like team spirit and fair play derive from the sportsfield. The fact that playing by the rules is so deeply ingrained in us owes something to school sport. I also defend individual sports as a spur to personal excellence. These are the main reasons for keeping sport in schools. It is the loss of these values which is the greatest casualty of its decline.

I shall end with just one thought. We must recognise that the days when every school could provide a filling sporting menu for its own pupils has probably gone. Co-operation is the name of the game--co-operation between schools, and between schools, clubs and sports centres. In my vision, every community should have its own sports centre, with its own playing fields and facilities which all the schools and pupils in the area could use regularly as a venue for matches as well as for training and leisure activities.

The task of setting up such a national network of sports centres would offer a fertile field for public-private partnerships. If it could be established, in the course of time, it would set sport in schools on a much firmer foundation than it enjoys at present, and allay most of the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord McNally, to whom we owe the opportunity to discuss these matters.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Cowdrey of Tonbridge: My Lords, I rise with some trepidation, and with many more butterflies in the tummy, I can assure noble Lords, than ever I endured at the other Lord's, almost as hallowed, but less noble. Perhaps I may say straight away how deeply honoured I am to have been allowed to come into your Lordships' House, and how grateful I am for the warm and friendly welcome that I have been given on every side.

I am grateful also to the noble Lord, Lord McNally, for prompting this debate today. It is most timely. It is a subject dear to my heart and to many across the land. As the noble Lord emphasised, we are just not giving our youngsters enough time in schools. I long for time, almost more than money, to be given in the school curriculum for sport. My noble friend Lord Skidelsky touched upon the value of team games--a most valuable aspect of it all, and difficult to put through in our present school system.

This time last year I was set a task by the then Prime Minister, the right honourable John Major, as part of his sport initiative Raising the Game. I was charged to form a small group comprising Sports Council, head teachers and PE teachers to see whether it would be practicable and helpful to PE teachers if we could persuade leading sportsmen and sportswomen to visit schools and demonstrate their skills. It was a scheme labelled "Sports Ambassadors", which I am happy to say has been received favourably by the current Secretary of State and his Minister for Sport.

That gave me the opportunity to take a close look at a whole range of schools. I learned a great deal. All is not gloom, I hasten to say. First, I was most impressed by the new style, highly trained and skilled, band of PE teachers who bear the huge responsibility of looking

26 Nov 1997 : Column 1008

after sport in schools. Their task is daunting. There are far too few of them to cope with the vast numbers, the limited playing fields, inadequate facilities, and too little time given to each pupil. And time--insufficiency of time allowed--is the key issue.

Secondly, I have come to admire the expertise of the Sports Council as it develops new ideas to help the PE teachers. The most recent of them, in conjunction with the excellent body the Youth Sports Trust, is aimed at the primary schools (ages 4-7) so that we can get hold of them and inspire them when they are young.

Thirdly, I have come to understand the predicament of the head teachers. Set upon achieving high standards in the classroom, they are naturally wary of giving up too much curriculum time to sport. Looking through the eyes of the PE teachers, they are faced with a three-pronged responsibility. First, there are those with talent who long to play all the time and learn, and PE teachers give to them as much time as they can, but not enough. Secondly, there is a huge number of youngsters in the middle ground, who can get only a smattering of various sports, in the limited time, and who probably leave school disappointed, only to find sport in later years. They have such regrets that they were given so little opportunity at school.

The third, and most compelling reason for backing more sport in schools, concerns that troublesome fringe element, which every school has, whose members block their minds to school and its routines--some sullen, others hiding their insecurity behind bravado and aggression--their energies lured away into unacceptable mischief, truancy, the drugs scene, petty crime. They are the despair of their parents, a headache for the schools, and a nightmare for the police.

Sport might be the only meeting ground with them--and therein the opportunity--to grab them back into the fold and open their eyes to the rewards that they can find within school life. I believe that sport can provide the key, not to all, but to many of those people.

I finish by saying, yes, of course, we must see more of our youngsters participating in sports in the schools. But clubs do a brilliant job now. The development officers put the talented folk through to the clubs. But, admirable as this is, it is through sport in schools that they make their friendships and learn their lessons. The great thing about sport is that one is never successful for very long. When one starts to get above oneself, it is a terrific leveller, because one loses very much more than one wins. That is a wonderful teacher for life itself. I hope that this debate today will send a signal to all head teachers, urging them to give a little more time to sport in the curriculum, and, what is more important, that when they do so they will be able to do so with government approval.

3.37 p.m.

Lord Davies of Coity: My Lords, although I have been in your Lordships' House for only a relatively short time, it gives me great pleasure to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Cowdrey, on behalf of the whole House on an excellent maiden speech. I am sure that the House shares my view that the noble Lord will make

26 Nov 1997 : Column 1009

a contribution in this House in the future equal to the contribution he made with the cricket bat at the other Lord's.

In congratulating the noble Lord, I am reminded of a story that concerns a mutual friend of ours--the noble Lord, Lord MacLaurin. Some 10 years ago he and I realised that in the 1950s we were posted to the same RAF station for over a year. We never met. I played cricket for the station; he played cricket for the RAF. Cricket is a wonderful sport, and it is with some trepidation that I confess I am a member of Lancashire County Cricket Club. However, with an accent like mine, I suppose the noble Lord also realises that I was very pleased that Glamorgan won the championship last year. I am sure that he will serve his country in this House as he served the country on the cricket field.

It will come as no surprise that many of us should be recalling our own school days and how we were involved in sport. I shall come to that. My contribution will not be one of political point scoring. I shall emphasise the principle of sport in schools; the working out of that logistical application must be for the Government. If we can emphasise the importance of sport in schools sufficiently we will have done our job. It cannot be in any way exaggerated. Of course academic studies must never be neglected. We recognise that there is sometimes competition, particularly with the drive by the Government to raise literacy and numeracy standards in schools. Sport must not be sacrificed in the process, to the extent that it damages the well being of all concerned. There has to be a balance.

Many arguments will be advanced in the debate as to why sport must be maintained, increased and extended in schools. I shall concentrate on three very general principles: first, why sport in schools is important to the country; secondly, why sport in schools is important to the individual and individuals who participate; and, thirdly, why sport in schools is, indeed, important and good for communities.

First, it is important for the good of the country. Britain is a sport-loving country, whether it be football, cricket, athletics, Test matches, the World Cup or the Olympic Games. There is an enormous amount of enthusiasm. But it is also about competition and, indeed, about winning. When we win, it is good for our nation. We have the feel-good factor. It raises widespread pride, confidence and morale among our people. In my view, for those successes to be maximised we must start early so as to ensure that the commitment and the skills are generated among our people at a very early age in school.

Secondly, sport is good for the individual. Of course, sport and academic study can and should produce the whole person. There are many who excel both in sport and in academic study. However, there are those who excel in sport but who do not do so well initially in academic study. It seems to me that, if they build up their confidence by excelling in sport, it will generate an opportunity, an initiative and a motivation also to excel academically because their confidence will be

26 Nov 1997 : Column 1010

boosted. That is what I see happening. It will, perhaps, turn them away from developing an inferiority complex, feeling that they have not made it in some way.

Thirdly, why is it good for communities? We all know that young people have an enormous amount of energy--an energy that must have an outlet, a physical outlet; for example, participating in sport. Otherwise, I fear that people may choose to release that energy in another way, through another outlet, that will be less productive, less satisfying and, unfortunately, more destructive.

I have been involved in sport for as long as I can remember. I played football at 13 years of age in an under-18 league side; I played adult football at 15. I continued playing league football until I was 43 years of age. Intermingled with that I played rugby for the school--it was rugby in the morning and soccer in the afternoon--as well as cricket. As noble Lords will appreciate, I am just a spectator these days. Nevertheless, I play a little golf when I can. Of course, the school I attended did not produce too many golfers--some rugby players perhaps, but not too many golfers.

I was never a great academic achiever but I do not put that down to my concentration on sport. Many of my friends were good sportsmen and, at the same time, academic achievers. My excuse is that I was perhaps something of a late developer. I also believe that schools can be used in the context of allowing other organisations to use their premises; the school gymnasium and so on. There is no problem about that, so long as it does not deprive the school children of such opportunities. My grandson is seven years of age. I take him every Saturday to a school where he receives football coaching. The school field is used. I believe that that sort of thing should happen.

I emphasise that those three points are important. Sport is good for the country as a whole; it is good for the individual and the individuals who participate; and it is good for communities. I hope that this House will do all in its power to support the extension of resources and facilities to ensure that we have the best sportspeople in the country developed through our schools.

3.44 p.m.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, it is a great pleasure for me to make my maiden speech this afternoon and to acknowledge the great kindness that I have received from Members and Officers of the House since I was introduced on 5th November. That was a memorable day, especially for my four young children whose only disappointment was their failure to meet Guy Fawkes on Bonfire Night.

Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Cowdrey, I bring no great sporting achievement to the House. Perhaps the most that I can offer is the fact that I was a member of a school hockey team which, in a whole season, managed to lose every match and by pretty handsome scores at that. However, I have a passionate interest in sport and a belief that it is absolutely essential that this

26 Nov 1997 : Column 1011

country does well in sport. Like the noble Lord, Lord McNally, I want to see more gold medals awarded to this country.

Who can deny that the fall-off in sports and physical exercise in our schools inhibits our ability to attain great sporting achievement? Many reasons have been given as to why that should be so. I would add to that list. I believe that the traditional approach to teaching sports has actually inhibited many people from fulfilling their potential.

When I was at school the focus was on a very limited number of competitive sports. That was great for children who were good at those sports but a real turn-off to many others. Of course, some of those people who were turned off are now in senior positions in our schools and in the educational establishment. I believe that sports and physical activity are important, not just for sporting achievement but also for the health and well-being of so many young people in our nation. What is happening in terms of the fall-off in sports and physical activity at school is surely paralleled in the home situation where the computer and the television are such powerful competitors.

It is also true to say that children now do not even get exercise on the way to school. A BMA report produced in September shows that, in 1972, 71 per cent. of all 7 year-olds went to school under their own steam. However, by 1990, that percentage had been reduced to 7 per cent. So, as the BMA report shows we have unfit children--children who are lethargic, unwilling to walk anywhere and engaging in very little physical activity either at home or at school. We are in great danger of breeding a new generation who will present very grave health problems in the future. I declare an interest as the chair of the Association for Public Health in expressing my concern in the area.

Many initiatives have been undertaken to try to improve the situation. I welcome them, but we have to do much more. We have to increase the number of coaches in schools; we must give much more support to PE teachers; and we must focus on girls. There is an alarming difference in the level of activity of girls compared with boys. We must also recognise that primary schools are the essential foundation. We need to concentrate on and help those primary schools to develop more facilities. They must give themselves more time to provide activities for children.

However, we must do more than that: we must recognise that it is no good lecturing children and students and expecting them to want to undertake physical activity and sports. They must be convinced that this is something worthwhile and something they will want to do. That means that we must have a wide range of choice available for those children. Those wishing to undertake competitive sports should be given all the support they require. Those for whom competitive sports are a turn-off need a wider range of activities.

A number of schools are introducing a wider element of choice. I have in mind, for example, the introduction of orienteering. Indeed, the Panathlon mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord McNally, which embraces nine sports

26 Nov 1997 : Column 1012

ranging from chess and orienteering to five-a-side football, is a wonderful way to develop sports in those schools without playing fields or with very limited facilities. There are also dance classes and physical activity weeks which encourage children in every part of a school to think about physical activity and to have a go. Other schools have brought in sports personalities in an effort to encourage people.

Those are the foundations on which we need to build in the future. What I would really like to see is the emergence of a concept of the healthy school where academic performance is combined with a concern for children's physical and mental well-being. That surely is a foundation on which we can develop sporting excellence in this country and also build a much healthier nation.

3.50 p.m.

Lord Moynihan: My Lords, I have the great privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath. I warmly congratulate him on behalf of the whole House for gracing your Lordships' House with an excellent, incisive and knowledgeable maiden speech. In many respects this has become the day of the Colins for in addition to hearing the outstanding maiden speech of my noble friend Lord Cowdrey, I was fortunate to return from Los Angeles this morning on the same flight as Colin Montgomerie, one of the world's greatest golfers and unquestionably one of Britain's finest sporting ambassadors.

That encounter provided me with the opportunity to recollect an early meeting with Denis Thatcher soon after I had been appointed Minister for Sport. He produced an excellent initiative to promote golf in schools; to reinforce the etiquette so central to the game; and to increase participation and develop excellence. It was his idea that all golfers teeing off on a Sunday should be encouraged to place a new ball in a Golf Foundation box on the first tee, to be collected at the end of the day, valued and the money used to finance local professionals' involvement in teaching golf to children from local schools. Here I wish to take up the point made by my noble friend Lord Skidelsky as it is a central point to this debate; namely, the importance of school sport vis-a-vis the clubs.

I had the great privilege to cox rowing eights at a time when we had an outstanding British eight. I had the great privilege to steer that eight at two consecutive Olympic Games. From my own experience I point out that if it had not been for the support given to rowing at the school I attended--I am delighted to inform the noble Lord who spoke earlier that it was a Welsh school, Monmouth School--I would never have had the opportunity to cox when I was at Oxford and then in the national squad. It is absolutely essential that we develop wider participation and excellence--those are the two key objectives--at school level. If we can master that, we shall develop the club members of the future and the members of the national squads. I hope that the Government will seek an initiative in that direction as it is important to focus on the role that clubs can contribute to school sport. In most localities those clubs will depend on schoolchildren for their future

26 Nov 1997 : Column 1013

membership. If one can encourage clubs to make available both facilities and particularly the time of club members to supplement the work of PE teachers in the development of children in local schools, one will provide not only the future membership of those clubs but also achieve the wider objective of sport for all.

It is appropriate that your Lordships have dwelt on what I believe to be four of the key issues that underpin today's debate. Those same issues will also, I hope, underpin the Government's consideration of an appropriate, far-reaching sports policy for this country. I see the four issues as being the lack of time that is allocated to physical recreation in both primary and secondary schools; the inadequate training that physical recreation teachers receive; the amount of funding that schools and extra-curricular clubs obtain, even with the additional resources from the National Lottery; and the vitally important need to encourage and maintain healthy levels of physical activity beyond school and university into adult life.

It is, of course, well known to your Lordships that regular exercise is a precursor to a healthy life style. The health benefits of physical activity during childhood and adolescence should not be underrated. Physical exertion not only reduces body fat and the likelihood of heart disease but is also important to enhance our psychological well-being. However, all recent studies have shown that young people in this country do not exercise with the intensity, the frequency and for the appropriate duration of time that leads to a healthy life style and well-being.

Physical recreation must be, and must continue to be, a crucial component of any school curriculum. Overall, between the ages of six and 18 we in the United Kingdom rate 13th in Europe for the amount of time we dedicate to physical recreation. That is in a country which so rightly prides itself on sport and recreation. Although many schools are keen to devote more time to sport and team games, the real problem lies in staff availability and teacher training. That is one of the reasons I urge the Government to consider bringing forward an initiative to allow clubs to become more involved and to supplement and work with physical education teachers.

The noble Lord, Lord McNally, understandably did not dwell on the structure of sports administration in Britain. However, I hope he agrees that it is important to underline the fact that we need to address this subject. It is vitally important that there is a clear focus and a clear, cohesive policy which covers many government departments and is responsible for the needs of all involved in sport. I was sorry to see sport moved from the Department of Education and Science. I understood the arguments at the time but if we are to have an outstanding policy which supports the development of excellence as well as wider participation, its heart should be in our schools.

In the tradition of this House this debate has highlighted and considered many of the key issues this country faces in developing sport and recreation in schools. I refer to sport for all; dual use of our facilities; far wider participation in schools; the development of

26 Nov 1997 : Column 1014

excellence at every level and support for those who are disabled who are keen to be actively involved in sport. Their disabilities count as nothing when one sees the outstanding results they achieve. It is those results which should be praised. In my experience of working with the disabled in sport, none of them wished to focus on their disabilities but rather on their abilities. I hope that the Government will give equal importance to developing sport initiatives for the disabled. The issues I have outlined are the pillars of British success in all areas of sport development. Schools are at the heart of that success.

3.57 p.m.

Lord Carew: My Lords, I, too, am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord McNally, for introducing this important subject for debate. I very much enjoyed the maiden speeches of the noble Lords, Lord Cowdrey of Tonbridge and Lord Hunt of Kings Heath.

Sport has been very much part of my life. I have been a sport's competitor for 25 years at international and Olympic level. For the past eight years I have been chairman of a world equestrian body--a poacher turned gamekeeper. All this experience has taught me the importance and significance of sport for young people, especially those in school.

Why is sport important in schools? Education includes not only academic subjects but also sport. An education is incomplete without participation in some form of sport. Sport helps develop a basic physical fitness and it highlights individual skills which are necessary for participation in sport at a high level. We now live in an era of professional sport and those involved can earn high financial rewards for sporting excellence.

Sport also highlights temperament and sportsmanship. It is essential to learn to behave both on and off the field of play and, additionally, a child should learn to be graceful in defeat and magnanimous where successful. That is an important ingredient in the character of an individual. Sport does much to create confidence, develop personality and create leadership skills--three attributes that are important for a successful career in one's chosen profession. It is interesting to note how many successful sports men and women have become captains of industry, senior officers in the Armed Forces, successful lawyers, doctors, accountants and members of many other professions, including politicians and even Members of your Lordships' House.

Individual sports are of course important, but I believe team sports to be the most important of all in the education of young people. It all starts at school. Team sports teach children to work with and for each other. That is something which will be with them all their lives. A few years ago the International Olympic Committee seriously considered deleting many team sports from the Olympic programme. I and others spent much time in persuading the IOC of the importance of team sports and the awarding of team medals to all team members. I am delighted to say that team sports and medals are now very much part of the Olympic programme.

26 Nov 1997 : Column 1015

As a small boy, I once asked my father whether he would wish me to be good at games or good at work--a typical schoolboy question. I received the reply I had hoped for, as I was considerably more enthusiastic about playing sport than playing academics. Perhaps my late father should have emphasised academic priority, but maybe he thought that one day his son, who was likely to have only an average brain, might just develop other talent through sport.

In retrospect, my advice in response to a similar question today would be for a child to work as hard as possible at his or her academic education, but also to devote as much time as reasonable to practising some form of sport. At all costs, complete your education because life as a professional sportsman will at some stage come to an end, often sooner rather than later, and then your academic qualifications will be a necessity for a different career.

What is the present problem with sport in schools? It is a serious problem in state schools. It is a case of the disappearing playing fields. More and more recreation grounds are being bulldozed. Supermarkets and petrol stations are rising up where once there used to be cricket pitches, a rugby pitch or a soccer pitch. Many children are unable to show what sporting talents they may possess. Additionally, the physical fitness of children is a worry. I understand that only one-and-a-half hours of PE a week is obligatory in the school curriculum.

What can be done to improve the situation? There is news today that public schools will be asked to share their sports facilities with state schools. That seems reasonable, but will the sharing of outdoor playing fields create an administrative problem for the respective schools? Head teachers must show their leadership and, if necessary, become flexible and creative. One headmaster's example is to organise aerobics--movement to music--which helps physical fitness and appeals especially to girls. Another headmaster organises bowls. However, in order to do so, the children, under supervision, must walk one mile there and back. They are delighted to do so.

In conclusion, sport is very much part of a child's education. If the opportunity to practise sport in schools continues to decline it may well affect the possibility of these young people eventually achieving sporting excellence. Additionally, the leadership qualities so often shown by children on the sportsfield may take rather longer to surface.

4.3 p.m.

Lord Burlison: My Lords, I am honoured to be invited to join such a noble body. It is also a great honour for me to make my maiden speech on a subject which I hold very dear. I am a passionate advocate for the safeguarding and development of school sport. School sport acts as a bridge between education and physical activity, as well as being a vehicle for self-esteem and team spirit. I have a particular and perhaps personal reason for being a staunch proponent of school sport. If it were not for the guidance and encouragement which I received from committed and highly patient teachers I would never have made my

26 Nov 1997 : Column 1016

way into professional football. Some might say, rather unkindly, that the fortunes of the teams for which I was privileged to play, would have fared better were that to have been the case. Less cruel commentators would give recognition to the fact that I, a working-class boy many years ago, was not so concerned with an academic education but could build a career from natural skills nurtured at school.

In case anyone should gain the wrong impression, I spent my career with second, third and fourth division clubs, but played mainly for Hartlepool United in the third and fourth divisions. Nevertheless, I still have a great fondness for the game and I hope that your Lordships will forgive me for using football in order to illustrate the necessity of school sports for a child's mental, moral and physical development.

I do so for two reasons: first, to take the opportunity to express appreciation of the teachers who freely put effort into school football, a game much loved by children up and down the country, and of local authorities which play a supportive role often in the face of adversity; and secondly, to express my concern that our sporting youngsters are under increasing pressure to specialise in one particular sport at a very early age. Football is a national pastime, more popular now than ever. The new Labour Government have introduced measures which I believe will encourage school football. Local authorities seem willing to assist wherever possible. Teachers are keen to develop skills on the pitch and to increase the number of those participating in schools.

Why does there appear to be a crisis of confidence? There is already a sound structure for school sport, but in order to accentuate its positive elements extra- curricular school-based teams need the involvement of teachers and they need suitable funding. To that end, I very much welcome the opportunity given to teachers to gain coaching qualifications.

As your Lordships will learn, I am not often readily disposed to scoring cheap political points, but I believe that I have a serious observation to make. It was made earlier by the noble Lord, Lord McNally. The previous Government had a poor record in preserving school sports. Since 1989, more than 5,000 school playing fields have been sold off, mainly in response to rate capping. I am encouraged by the resolution of the new Minister for Sport to put a hold on the sale of irreplaceable recreation land. Perhaps the Minister will indicate whether the Government are considering replacing those fields.

I take the liberty of singling out for praise my local authority of Gateshead. In Gateshead, the situation is quite the reverse of the national trend. In some areas, extra football pitches have been produced for schools. I believe that to be a promising and effective way of encouraging a renaissance in school sports. Local management of schools has brought about budget cuts. Regretfully, sport and sports equipment is an easy area in which to make savings. Many physical education teachers make an invaluable contribution to a child's development, but they badly need resources.

26 Nov 1997 : Column 1017

During this decade and the last, the number of physical education teachers has fallen from 42,000 to 24,000. Less than two-thirds of British schools provide the recommended minimum of two hours of physical education a week. Let us be clear about the issue. Teachers have a very significant role to play in the pursuance of skills. They can identify potential and are best placed to act on it. Sport is an integral part of the school ethos and should not be dismissed as some kind of afterthought. The teachers' involvement both inside and outside school hours is necessary for today's gifted child to become tomorrow's national asset.

The structure for sport needs to be strengthened. That can be achieved by a genuine partnership for all. I refer not only to football but to all sports. Why not have a governing body to co-ordinate school sports associations? Why not complement the towns' and the players' general education needs with specialist coaching? Why not put the sports clubs into the schools so that come four o'clock quality training is available? I am glad that moves have already been made in that direction with the sports colleges and sportsmark. In football there is already in existence a system which promotes talent through effective partnership. The centres of excellence are a very healthy means of developing young players without interfering with their academic studies. Although schoolboys are attached to professional clubs and attend once or twice a week, they are still allowed to represent their schools at various levels and retain their educational link.

There are many areas that I should have liked to cover but like other noble Lords, my time is running out. There are many dangers in the sport-led approach. It does not provide any happy medium; the emphasis is placed squarely on the sporting body. On the other hand, school sport develops the child both at a personal and physical level. Although those two philosophies are not necessarily exclusive, it is important to make a distinction between them.

No one can inspire young players more than the sports teacher. If partnership between professional bodies and schools is to make any positive contribution to a child's development then the sports teacher must play a leading role. The teacher who knows and understands his pupil is one who can best meet the requirements of that child. Their enthusiasm and commitment should be matched by better resources for all school sports and physical education. Only then shall we see school sport in this country regain its confidence.

4.12 p.m.

Lord Rotherwick: My Lords, I have the great pleasure of congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Burlison, on his enlightening and valuable speech. I thank him. I am sure that we shall all look forward to his future contributions in this House.

Like most people, I believe also in the importance of sport on the playing field to occupy the youth of the country. It is a constructive, stimulating pastime and must surely help to nurture a better character in a person. Like most private school boys, I enjoyed good

26 Nov 1997 : Column 1018

quality sports facilities at school. The sporting disciplines and skills I was taught prepared me for coping with the demands of life and enabled me at a later date to become a successful international three-day eventer. Probably due to the fact that I fell off rather too many times, I must be forgiven when I stutter and make mistakes in my speech.

Today, like my contemporaries, I have retained that discipline. I still exercise regularly and believe that as a fit person one can perform better in the demanding world in which we live. Industry is constantly looking to employ new school leavers and graduates which it hopes will become good team players capable of going out into a highly competitive world and winning. We rely on our industry to produce revenues to run our country. Therefore, we must ensure that we train the best possible young people to be employed by it. Young people discover and develop many skills outside the classroom. It is in the unique open-air environment of the playing field that schoolchildren learn the skills of working together in a team with all sorts of competitive pressures and competing to win.

Education is the training of the body and the mind. In the previous government's Education Reform Act 1988, physical education in schools was made a foundation subject in the national curriculum. That was continued in the Education Act 1993. The general requirement for physical education states that:

    "Physical education should involve pupils in the continuous process of planning, performing and evaluating".

Couple that with a requirement for team and competitive games, and the time-honoured playing field must be the ideal place for that physical education. Therefore, it is extremely sad to see statistics saying that local authorities have released to the private sector more than 5,000 playing fields in the past 10 years. I understand that local authorities are not required to report disposals of playing fields to central government. Consequently, no central record of playing field sales exists. Even now the sales continue. In July this year it was reported that the Labour-controlled Rotherham council agreed to sell the field at my right honourable friend William Hague's old school, Wath-upon-Dearne Comprehensive in South Yorkshire. In August it was also reported that Edinburgh's education convenor Elizabeth Maginnis said it was significant that the Sports Council had twice relaxed its opposition to trading land for improved sports facilities in the city since Labour took power at the Scottish Office.

Therefore, with the local authorities continuing to allow the sale of these playing fields surely the time has come for a firm hand from this Government in the form of new legislation to stop the sale of playing fields. Will the Government set up a register of playing fields and bring forward new legislation to preserve playing fields?

Recently we have heard that the Government are considering a controversial move of stripping private schools of their charitable status unless they form a partnership with state schools. Two questions spring to mind. First, who is going to pay for the additional cost of upkeep to playing fields? I hope the Government are not trying to ease their financial responsibility onto the private schools' parents. Secondly, most schools do not

26 Nov 1997 : Column 1019

have any spare capacity on their playing fields. Does this mean that private pupils will have to stand on the touchline of their playing fields and await their turn to play?

Parents who send their children to private schools, like other taxpayers, are entitled to free schooling. By sending their children to fee paying schools they save the Treasury having to supply expensive schooling for them. Additional to that, private schools also fund bursaries and scholarships worth £126 million. So to strip private schools of their charitable status if they were not to allow state schools the use of their playing fields would cost those schools about £63 million which would result in school fees increasing by more than 6 per cent. It is difficult to see how the Government have reached that controversial decision.

The best way of protecting playing fields is by people using them, by a good planning system, by the use of the law of charity and by other statutory measures, whether mandatory or permissive. These statutory measures should include playing fields in the ownership of all of the government departments, such as defence and health.

4.17 p.m.

Lord Monro of Langholm: My Lords, it is a great privilege to address this House for the first time, although batting at number 10, I seem far too high up the order for any team led by my noble friend Lord Cowdrey.

All too frequently we return from the Olympics and Commonwealth Games or World Championships and blame a lack of financial resources on our lack of success. In fact, our top professionals are now well cared for through the lottery, the four sports councils, sponsors and, it is hoped in the future, through the academy of sport.

I believe our problems begin much earlier: it is at school and in the translation from school to sports club. We fail to recognise talent and achievement and many of our best youngsters never fulfil their potential. There is no doubt that we should do very much better. Part of our failure is due to a lack of enthusiasm in many schools. Of course, there are exceptions and there are many dedicated PE and other teachers, but I speak in terms of the generality.

I appreciate the extreme pressure on the curriculum, but that should not remain inflexible. This is an important subject and is highlighted in the Scottish Sports Council's excellent publication--A Youth Sport Strategy for Scotland. It is not easy to change a crowded weekly programme but I am convinced that sport is not receiving adequate attention. If need be, we should consider a longer school day or a longer school year. One period a week or 5 per cent. of a year's teaching, as recommended in the guidance, is totally insufficient.

There is no doubt that boys and girls benefit from sport and recreation provided that they enjoy it and have fun. The advantages are enormous. There is nothing like a winning football, hockey or rugby team to raise morale and give a sense of purpose and pride in the whole school.

26 Nov 1997 : Column 1020

Team sports are the key, as many noble Lords mentioned. However, I do not underestimate the importance of individual sports like tennis, badminton, squash and so on, and particularly swimming. Swimming is very important. Every child should be able to swim before leaving school. Team sports do more than improve physical fitness. They develop character, leadership and discipline, all of which are equally important.

Outward-bound activities are a high priority, such as hill-walking, orienteering, white water canoeing, sailing and so on. In these youngsters need to be pushed to the limit. They can often achieve objectives previously thought to be beyond them. Yes, sometimes there will be an element of danger; but good supervision must never allow foolhardiness.

Only by their going to the limit will the best be brought out in girls and boys. It is the stuff of leadership, personality and confidence that we want today in all walks of life. There is nothing like the "feel-good factor" of personal achievement in difficult circumstances.

The governing bodies--with some of which I have been involved for most of my life--the sports councils and the CCPR are all well aware of that and are anxious to help the education authorities and school boards. The Scottish Sports Council has an excellent team sport programme and is advocating the introduction of school sport co-ordinators to help in school. I believe that the pilot scheme has been a tremendous success.

Most schools have good facilities, from gyms to all-weather pitches, often used by the community as well as by the school. Like other noble Lords, I have been disappointed that education authorities have sold off sports grounds. But that is not the key. We still have adequate pitches and facilities if we can get on with the coaching that is so important.

We must remember, particularly in relation to the idea of public schools and comprehensive schools joining together, that this country has a rather wet climate. We cannot play several matches a day, five days a week, on the average grass pitch. What is necessary is time and good coaching. We have, too, to encourage people to move on from school to their local sports clubs, which often offer very good facilities. But the clubs, and the coaches to those clubs, need to have access to the schools in order to help induce pupils to come to the sports club when they leave school. It is crucially important to bridge the gap between school and sports club and to show pupils how welcome they are when they arrive at the sports club to carry on the good work that they have been doing in school. It is so important to have pupils in sports clubs and not on street corners wasting their time in the evening.

I call for two things. First, extra time is necessary. As has been said throughout the debate, we must have more time for sport and recreation. Secondly, there must be greater co-ordination between schools and clubs. If we can bring those two aspects together we shall make a good start. However, tomorrow is almost too late. We want to start today.

26 Nov 1997 : Column 1021

4.23 p.m.

Lord Lofthouse: My Lords, what a delight it is to follow the noble Lord. I have had the pleasure over many years to be his trusted colleague in another place. I have also had the privilege over many years of sitting in the Chair in the other place listening to speeches both from the Front Bench and the Back Benches made by the noble Lord. When I noticed that I was to follow him on the list of speakers, I thought that in order to do justice to my colleague of many years, I should probably need the seven minutes at my disposal. Suffice it to say that it is probably appropriate that my remarks will be centred on one sport; namely, Rugby League football. I know that over many years the noble Lord has been distinguished in administration, and probably in playing rugby--but not the type of rugby that I have been used to. It is the type of game with a lot of men on the field who seem to take pleasure in scratching one another's backs with the studs in their boots. I never understood that. Nevertheless, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord.

I do not wish to appear too parochial. However, I think that I may emphasise the point by explaining the situation in schools in my area. Over almost a century, the schools in the area in West Yorkshire in which I have lived all my life have played competitive Rugby League. As a result, small towns such as my own, Featherstone, with no more than 15,000 people at any time have produced Rugby League players, to the extent that a team from that small town has played in the Challenge Cup at Wembley five times and won the cup three times, with players who have come through schools competitions. Unfortunately and regrettably, not many schools now play Rugby League in the areas that have always been renowned for that game.

I fully understand that teaching staff are overloaded and that the game is not part of the curriculum. But what is happening now is that the professional game of Rugby League is facing a crisis. Gone are the young men who used to play because they loved the game. Now, Murdoch money has been introduced. It attracts foreign players and creates a situation whereby the community spirit created by the schools and the youngsters following on from school, taking pride in playing for their home town, has now, unfortunately, gone. Games of amateur football take place, but they are organised outside the schools.

It is absolutely essential that every encouragement is given to schools to reintroduce competitive Rugby League in those areas. While acknowledging, as I said, that the staff are overloaded, encouragement has to be given to volunteers from the local communities to take part within the schools and assist teachers outside the curriculum. If not, the game which we all loved for something like a century will dwindle and probably die.

What can be done about the problem? There is certainly a need to create opportunities for schools to maximise voluntary community involvement. I am sure that parents are willing to go into schools to assist. If that can be encouraged from government downwards, it will be a great step forward in returning to the situation as we have always known it. It will put a sense of community and love of the game back into those areas.

26 Nov 1997 : Column 1022

We have to focus our attention on the primary sector--which is unfortunately not the case at present. The English Sports Council's Challenge Fund must be extended into the primary sector. That would not be too great a job for the Sports Council to consider, and probably approve. Also, Rugby League must be allowed to take full advantage of the opportunities available through the national junior sports programme, in particular the BT Top Sports Initiative.

Rugby League is one of the greatest sports that people can possibly play. I say "people" because there are now many ladies who play Rugby League football. Only the other day I had the opportunity of announcing the appointment of the first woman development officer for Rugby League. But we must have the involvement of the schools. It is a safe game. Children of nine to 11, and younger, given the opportunity and guidance within the schools, could look forward to a career, not only as players but, for the love of the game that they have learnt at school, as supporters throughout their lives. I speak with experience. I was fortunate enough to play myself through the schools and then to play professionally, but since finishing, arising out of my love of the game, I am able to continue watching it as a supporter. It has been a major part of my life. I hope that communities, many of them within mining areas, will still be able to enjoy the game because it has played such a large part in their lives.

4.30 p.m.

The Earl of Woolton: My Lords, I should like to begin by joining other noble Lords in thanking the noble Lord, Lord McNally, for introducing this important debate today. I should also like to add my congratulations to my noble friend Lord Cowdrey of Tonbridge and to the noble Lords, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, Lord Burlison and Lord Monro of Langholm, on their excellent maiden speeches.

I am very aware that I am speaking after some very distinguished speakers and I should stress that I have no great sporting talent. Nevertheless, sport plays a significant and important part in my life, and I am delighted to be able to take part in this debate today. In the short time available to me I can do no more than make a few general points. I start by saying that I, too, believe that sport has a crucial role to play in schools. I am a passionate supporter of all sports and I benefited enormously from exposure to a wide range of sporting opportunities as a child at a private school. I have perhaps made more use of such opportunities since I left school than while I was there.

I am also now a parent of young children who are just beginning to enjoy the same opportunities that I had. While many children receive their first exposure to sport through their parents, it is at school that this can be properly developed.

I, no doubt along with other noble Lords who have registered an interest in sport, received a number of briefing papers ahead of today's debate. I was struck immediately by the universal concern expressed that there is far too little time devoted to sport and physical education in the national curriculum. It seems that we

26 Nov 1997 : Column 1023

are producing a whole new generation of couch potatoes. Children appear much to prefer spending their time watching television or sitting in front of computers or, worst of all, roaming the streets without purpose.

Yet at the same time sport and sporting prowess seem to dominate the news more and more. We are told that more people visit sporting events than ever before and that the range and variety of sports now available has never been greater. At the same time, as the noble Lord, Lord McNally, mentioned, huge sums of money have started to flow into many television-friendly sports. Britain has always been proud of its sporting tradition and yet we are told time and time again that we are now a second-class sporting nation.

Much of the blame has been placed at the feet of government and, more particularly, at the perceived failure of the school system to produce the sporting heroes of the future. I have no doubt that the importance attached to competitive sports was allowed to diminish during the last few decades when it seems that, along with many other issues, teachers started to decline to supervise children participating in sports, either in or after school. I believe that this is no longer the case and that, particularly with the various initiatives of the last government and with the support of the then Prime Minister, John Major, a new focus was placed on promoting sport in schools. I am delighted, therefore, to read in various statements by members of the new Labour Government that they, too, recognise this issue and, in particular, under their "Sport for All" banner they have said that they intend to continue to place a high priority on promoting sport in schools. I believe it is a very necessary and achievable aim, in the words of the Conservative Government's White Paper Raising the Game, to:

    "bring good sporting facilities within the reach of every child in every school by the year 2000 and to restore the nation's playing fields".

Sport is an essential ingredient in all youth development and it is often at school that children first have the opportunity to achieve a lifelong habit of sport for fitness and pleasure. There is therefore an overwhelming need throughout our school system for good quality and well-balanced physical education and sports facilities.

I wrote down over 20 positive social or moral values, if you can call them that, that I believe are generated in young people by an involvement with sport. Many have already been mentioned by other noble Lords today and I would just mention the encouragement of a healthy lifestyle, the setting of goals, communication skills, confidence-building, self-discipline and friendships. There are many more. At a personal level, at a family and community level and also at a national level, most children benefit from taking part in or watching competitive individual and team sports. My particular point here--and I agree with many other noble Lords--is that children should be introduced to sport as young as possible, preferably at primary school. I know that my own children have already benefited from that at primary school age.

26 Nov 1997 : Column 1024

I am positive and excited about the future of sport in schools. I believe that resources are now starting to flow back into the grass roots. I, too, would particularly like to recognise the efforts of the various national sports councils and the many and various governing bodies of sports, of two of which--the MCC and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club--I am proud to be a member, and all the other organisations which have started to feed resources into the school system. Of course we need the next generation of sporting heroes and of course we need to promote initiatives such as the academy of sport. Resources must be directed towards both regaining our leading position in world sport and also in providing those of us who have no extraordinary sporting talent with the opportunity to enjoy our chosen sport for fun.

I have moved over this huge subject far too fast, and we have heard much that is both positive and negative about the future for sport in schools this afternoon. I have many anxieties about the future, not least the continuing loss of our playing fields. These appear, despite government assurances, still to be under great threat. I hope that the Government will be able to give some reassurance about this today. The key to the future success of sport in schools must lie in providing our children with the best of sporting facilities and the best of teaching skills. I shall welcome and support all initiatives to bring this about.

4.38 p.m.

Lord Northbourne: My Lords, I rise to draw attention to the importance of sport for the personal and social development of disadvantaged young men and boys. Lest a phalanx of noble Baronesses should rise up to smite me, I quickly want to say that I fully recognise the importance of sport for girls and that girls can be at least as successful as boys and have a right to equal access to sports. Nonetheless, I intend today to focus on sport for boys.

I have become convinced that our society has serious problems which arise from a failure to educate, socialise and civilise its boys and young men, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. The noble Lord, Lord Cowdrey, in his excellent maiden speech, drew attention to this. We as a society are seeing the emergence of a new type of young male: one who is weakly socialised and weakly socially controlled. If this problem could be solved--and I believe that sport has a role to play in solving it--advantages would accrue not only to the boys themselves but also to the girls and to society as a whole.

Let me give a few examples of the problem, well known to your Lordships. Rates of juvenile crime have fallen over the past 20 years, or so we are told, but the proportion of violent youth crime has risen dramatically. The rate of truanting from school remains unacceptably high. Too many of our children leave school without any recognisable qualifications and yet, as the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, told us yesterday when repeating the pre-Budget Statement, Britain is facing a skills challenge greater than any since the industrial revolution. In its report Learning to Succeed,

26 Nov 1997 : Column 1025

the National Commission on Education, chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Walton, states in its first paragraph that,

    "an uncomfortably large majority of young people leaving school have trouble with literacy and numeracy and seem to have benefited all too little from their education".

National statistics show that the percentage of young people not achieving any GCSEs, even at G-level, is, on a national basis, 8.4; but in the London Borough of Haringey the percentage is 17.7.

My next example is the dead hand of unemployment caused by lack of education and training and by negative attitudes to society and to work. Unemployment is much higher than average in some areas. It was stated in Learning to Succeed:

    "Concentrated unemployment has aggravated problems of poverty and given rise to fear of the emergence of an underclass".

If I had time, I could tell your Lordships about a visit I made last week to one of the slums of Chicago. A paramedic unit told me that the three most important kinds of cases they had to deal with were asthma, delivering babies and gunshot wounds.

Finally, many children are growing up in families with only one parent. The UK national average for one-parent families is now 19.1 per cent.; the figure for the Borough of Lambeth is 45 per cent. Noble Lords might like to ask themselves how many of those single mothers would want to be single mothers if they had the opportunity of carrying out their parenting function in partnership with the right young man. Perhaps part of the problem is that we do not have enough suitable young men. We are bringing up our boys and young men to be uneducated, unskilled, unsocialised and often anti-social. We must remedy that situation, and I believe that in doing so sport has a contribution to make--not only sport in school but sport outside school, sport at weekends and sport in the holidays.

How can sport help? Many boys enjoy sport. Sport can reduce truanting, which is an important issue. In Chicago I was told at Hull House that many schools in America are now reintroducing sport and as a result there has been a dramatic fall in truanting. A little jam with the medicine makes it worth coming to school.

It is a fact well known to teachers that a child who succeeds in one area of school work is more likely to succeed in other areas. Building self-confidence and self-esteem can improve behaviour. Sport can build self-confidence and self-esteem for many young men. Many boys with below-academic potential can become successful in sport, and that improves their overall performance. Enhanced self-confidence will make them more able to obtain training and work.

Sport teaches social skills: self discipline, working in a team, learning to cope, winning and losing. And, of course, it helps with physical health. Sport can help a young man to cope better with peer group pressures, which otherwise may lead him into trouble.

Sport in school may have another advantage. Sociologists may argue that boys do not need a male role model in their lives. Whether or not that is true, what is absolutely clear is that most boys seek a male

26 Nov 1997 : Column 1026

role model, and they model their own behaviour on that role model. In societies and families where socially acceptable role models are scarce, a football or basketball coach can play an important role in inspiring and guiding boys, can be a hero and a friend, and can act as a positive role model in a boy's life.

The Home Secretary in another place has made no secret of his concern to address the problems of the young disadvantaged and the causes of crime. I hope that he and the Government will give very careful thought to the role that sport can play in achieving that objective.

4.46 p.m.

Lord Milverton: My Lords, it is with great pleasure that I rise to support the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord McNally, and to say how wonderful it has been to hear the maiden speeches.

It is extremely important that sport--both as regards the individual and the team--is given a fair place in education before children leave school to go on to university or higher education and into the world. I believe that sport helped my confidence. I was not terrific at sport, but I was reasonable. I was able to represent Clifton in rowing; I got into the A-team for rugby. I know that it also helped me academically. It is so important for boys and girls.

Sport is important for character building; I refer to a Christian viewpoint of character--personality, mind, body and soul. We learn from others in sport--do we not?--in particular team sport, but also individual sport. Individually in tennis singles one can have a pleasant game--or not, if those taking part behave in an unhealthy, aggressive way. We can learn from others. We learn to respect others--do we not?--if sport is carried out properly. We learn to understand from others and in so doing we learn about ourselves. In that way we help one another.

In team sports we learn about trust and loyalty. Those are two qualities which perhaps need to be rediscovered in the world today. Trust and loyalty, whether at school, with your team, with your club or your political party, are important not just when things are going smoothly and lovingly but also when they are a bit rough and tough. In a special way, respect plays a part in team sport.

A short time ago, I remember reading in, I think, the Sunday Times, an article about some rugby clubs which were doing helpful work in teaching young children rugby. It was extremely interesting. The person who wrote it said that there was one aspect in which those clubs were disturbed. It may seem surprising, but they were disturbed by the action, ways and thoughts of the parents, not the little ones.

We know that there is bound to be aggression in sport, but we hope that it is kept in tight rein, in its right place. It was disturbing that the parents' attitude was, "Come on, my little boy, get in there. Give him the works". They leaned towards aggressiveness rather than healthy aggression. That is what the clubs do not want; and that is what we do not want in sport--unhealthy, aggressive, nasty brutality.

26 Nov 1997 : Column 1027

Those who were helping the little ones in the clubs were disturbed by that attitude. The parents were not helping the children to try to appreciate the beauty, the talent or the gist of the game. When I am watching rugby or any sport, if I see any of that ghastly, horrible, aggressive brutality I say, "I am not sitting down to watch that". I sit down to watch a game played with not only healthy aggression, but also with the talent and beauty of whatever game is being shown.

Sometimes parents need to be taught about sportsmanship. As has already been said, there is graciousness in winning as well as graciousness in losing. As long as a game is played in a healthy, decent, sportsmanlike manner, the players will know how to react if they lose and how to react if they win. There is nothing worse than winners being arrogant and pompous about their win.

Discipline and confidence have been mentioned and they are important. All those characteristics come from our Christian virtues. We must also consider the aspect of sharing. I was at a private school--or public school, whatever one likes to call them--in England and in Canada. Parents make quite a sacrifice to send their children to such schools; they are not necessarily just those parents with pots of money. If a scheme could be worked out, I am sure that many private and public schools would be willing to share their facilities with others. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, and her Government will be able to put sport back into schools with a good foundation and find a way of forming a partnership between the different bodies, schools and people.

4.54 p.m.

Lord Rowallan: My Lords, I am sorry to come in in the gap in the speakers' list, and am grateful to the Government Front Bench for letting me say a few words.

I am pleased to say that, through debate, I have been able to stop the sales of a couple of important pitches, one in the Borough of Redbridge and one in Glasgow. But it is alarming to see the number of sales that are still being negotiated. As a commentator at many sporting events throughout the country, I am aware that many sports are out of the question for people by the time they are teenagers. It is vital that we find the talents of children when they are still young at early school age.

I consider that one of our problems in encouraging sport is that the majority of children do not board at school and there are so many other attractions on Saturdays and Sundays in which they can take part. It is also difficult to find teachers willing to help on Saturdays or Sundays to teach the children when they receive the same salary as the teacher working only five days a week. That is something we must address. This country used to win many medals and now we win fewer and fewer. Sport in this country is in great danger unless we take radical steps very quickly.

4.55 p.m.

Lord Addington: My Lords, it is altogether too long since we discussed sport in this Chamber, and I thank

26 Nov 1997 : Column 1028

my noble friend for giving us this opportunity to take a look at sport and particularly sport in schools. This debate also gives me the opportunity to congratulate all the maiden speakers who have spoken.

Perhaps I may be allowed to start with a cricket analogy. The noble Lord, Lord Cowdrey, started very well and gave us a good beginning. He certainly backed up that beginning. It can safely be said that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, managed to show us, with nice driving strokes, that everything was not wonderful in days gone by. The noble Lord, Lord Burlison, showed us what happens when we take one sport and develop it in a good cultural environment with the right background. It can produce exceptional talents. The noble Lord was far too modest when he described playing in the second, third and fourth divisions as being a modest achievement. It is considerably more success than most people even smell.

If the noble Lord, Lord Monro, feels that he is a bad number 10 in the batting order, then I am afraid most teams have nowhere to go. He was right when he said that clubs have an important role to play in the future of sport. Indeed, that is a point I shall develop later.

I should like to say at the start that when we talk of sport, we talk of contest using physical skill. That defines sport. I hope therefore that this debate will finally say goodbye to the absurdity--indeed the impossibility--of non-competitive sport. It just does not exist. When we talk of non-competitive sport, we are talking of exercise--nothing else. That is what it is. I may be accused--to use a brutal expression--of kicking a corpse when I say this. But this is one corpse whose death throes are not quite over so let me make it clear. We have to compete in sport.

School has traditionally provided us with a place where children get their first taste of sport. But, to return to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, it was not always a happy experience. I was probably born to be a Rugby Union player; having the physique and background that I have did not give me many options, and culture meant that the game of Rugby League was not available to me until considerably later on. I went through the school experience on many an afternoon with the wind coming in horizontally, sitting around being forced to play soccer--Association Football. I developed a loathing for the game, which has only fairly recently been tempered. I regularly saw a cloud of people around the ball at the other end of the pitch kicking each other with great abandon. I stood, in defence, wondering when I was to be allowed to join in and, when I was, what I was supposed to do. I soon discovered that simply knocking the players over was not allowed, though it was a great way on occasion of ending the experience early.

That experience added nothing to my sporting education. By the same token, on the few occasions when we played rugby at school, it did not help some of the people who had been in the cloud kicking the ball around to have me running at them and knocking them over quite legally. Once again, they did not benefit from the experience.

26 Nov 1997 : Column 1029

Ultimately, sport is something you should do because you get something out of it. Playing a sport because it is good for your school or good for something else misses the point completely. If it is not something you are benefiting from or enjoying, it just will not work. We all know of the rebellious period when teenagers decide that they do not want to join in. How often is that attitude encouraged in sport because teenagers do not enjoy the sports available to them?

The school experience of sport not only has that to contend with but also has the fact that teachers are now snowed under by paperwork. Many of the reports and forms may be beneficial with regard to certain aspects of education, but surely we can get rid of some of them. If we cannot, and we want to have a meaningful educational experience in sport, schools will have to do something else. They will have to employ more teachers and perhaps put aside a little more time in the curriculum for sport. If you have one and half hours or two hours a week for sport and you intend people to shower afterwards, you will cut down your time dramatically. What is certain is that you cannot break it down into penny packets. Indeed, as people get older, especially as they get into their late teenage years, they discover something which all sportsmen discover. I refer to having to warm up in order to avoid tearing muscles. That is certainly a habit they should get into very rapidly. If you carry out this process and have only half hour packets for sport, you will probably have about five minutes in any one lesson to indulge in the sport. The pressure placed on sport by the curriculum and the way it is structured is crucifying the experience in schools for many people. That is beyond question.

We must try to encourage schools to have a realistic sport sampling process and to bring in outside expertise. What I know best is Rugby Union. It has shown a good example not only in teaching rugby to young children in the form of mini-rugby and other competitions, but in doing so in a way acceptable to the children. It has not, as has happened in prep schools, forced them to play 15 a side, with young people running around--many not interested and not wanting to get involved. Some young people just will not receive the ball and if they do they cannot pass it very far. We should not force them to take part in a game for which they are not yet ready.

Rugby League has also shown a good example. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Lofthouse, that when you are on the ground and they are trying to scratch your back, it is not because you have said that it itches. This is an example of how the game can develop. Cricket has done the same thing and even tennis has become involved. We should teach the game in a form that is appropriate to the young. They will then enjoy it and get involved. Schools have to start this process. They have to get people interested. Then--and this is a cultural change for many schools--they must throw up their hands and say, "We cannot do any more with you. Go somewhere where the expertise is". That is a cultural change which schools will have to take on board. Many schools like the idea of the status symbol of a successful school sports team. However, if those days are not yet over,

26 Nov 1997 : Column 1030

they are certainly numbered. If we are interested in sport first and school prestige second, we shall have to square up to that problem.

When we consider the whole question of sport in schools we have to bear in mind that we are aiming for something that is not confined to schools. We are talking about forming the habits of exercise and of participating in sport. As the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, said, you do not play sport to get fit; you get fit to play sport. That is the incentive behind it. I certainly appreciate the fact that the noble Lord has a damaged back. Rugby Union has meant that after many a late night here I have had to twist my back more often than I care to mention. Sport takes it out on your body. It is something you have to acquire a taste for. Unless schools are prepared to act as a springboard for later life, school sport will dwindle away to nothing, because it is simply not moving with the times.

5.5 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): My Lords, I begin by congratulating the noble Lords, Lord Cowdrey of Tonbridge and Lord Monro, and my noble friends Lord Hunt of Kings Heath and Lord Burlison on their excellent maiden speeches. I very much enjoyed what all of them had to say and look forward to hearing them speaking in the House on many future occasions. I have listened carefully and with great interest to the many points raised in the debate today. I shall try to answer the questions posed but I am sure that in the time available I may fail in some cases. In that event I shall write to Members of your Lordships' House who raised particular questions.

Of course, it goes without saying that we want the very best for our young people. They deserve nothing less than the best. This Government believe that the best must include high quality physical education. What has struck me most today is the degree to which we seem to share that view. There is a great deal of common ground on the importance of physical education and sport for young people as part of the broad and balanced education which is their entitlement.

I am only sorry that there were not more women speakers in the debate. Sport is certainly not just for boys. I gather that the sport in which there are now more women participating than ever before is rugby football, as perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and my noble friend Lord Lofthouse are already aware. I am an addict of all sports. As a child, I even played touch rugby with my father and brothers. My sister and I joined in. It was a school of hard knocks in some ways but it was very enjoyable and good for us. Nowadays I stick to tennis. I play tennis every weekend--not very well but I hope I make up for it by my enthusiasm and my competitive approach.

It is important for us to be clear about what we mean when we talk about physical education. A great many people believe that it is synonymous with sport. It is not. The original National Curriculum Working Party on PE summed up the differences succinctly. Sport covers a range of physical activities. Physical education, on the

26 Nov 1997 : Column 1031

other hand, is a process of learning, in which the context is mainly physical. As the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, said, in physical education the learning process is every bit as important as participation and performance. Good quality PE provides a challenge for all young people and a complement to sporting prowess. Sports provision, including competitive sport, is an essential part of good PE.

There are many reasons for promoting good quality physical education. First, and probably most importantly, as my noble friend Lord Hunt and the noble Lords, Lord Moynihan and Lord Carew, have said, it is the key to a child's health and physical fitness. We have heard a great deal about the ascendancy of the "couch potato" society in recent years. I do not believe that this is entirely the result of a decline of PE in schools, perceived or real. It may have rather more to do with the excitement young people get from computer-driven games than any reluctance to stretch themselves physically.

What is important is that we make sure that schools are in a key position to educate young people about the importance of establishing the habits of a healthy and active lifestyle. We must also recognise that sport complements other aspects of what children learn in school and in their personal lives. For example, it unquestionably lays a valuable foundation in developing adult skills: how to work together as a team; how to co-operate with each other and strive towards a common goal.

Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools' most recent annual report found that the health of PE in schools was largely sound. But the Government have inherited a pretty mixed picture which certainly leaves us no room for complacency. I have already mentioned the importance of a healthy lifestyle. There are other genuine concerns to which many speakers have referred today, especially the need to safeguard the future of school playing fields and other sports facilities to which schools and their local communities must have access. It is a great shame that so many have been sold off in an apparently uncontrolled manner.

However, the English Sports Council is considering how and what records of recreational land might be kept. There also seems to be inconsistency in the amount of time which schools allocate to physical education although that is formally a matter for the schools rather than something that is laid down in the national curriculum. We know that in the past teachers, particularly in primary schools, have been inadequately trained to teach this essential part of the curriculum.

Another important issue is equality of access for young people to good quality teaching and facilities. That is particularly the case for pupils in inner cities, in which creative solutions have to be found to ensure that they have access to appropriate sports facilities without spending a great deal of lesson time travelling to distant playing fields. Equally, as the noble Lord, Lord McNally, and others have said, we must recognise that young people's interests vary widely. In particular, teenage girls often prefer some types of activity to others and we must ensure that the curriculum is used

26 Nov 1997 : Column 1032

in a sufficiently flexible way to take account of the particular concerns that girls may have and caters for their interests. What matters is that young people learn to enjoy taking exercise and get into the habit of regular activity, whether it is in an organised team game, athletics, swimming, gymnastics or contemporary dance.

Therefore, there are a number of challenges which we must face if we are not only to safeguard but to improve the prospects for sport in schools and secure the benefits they bring. In the short time since last May the Government have made a start in tackling these issues, and we shall go on to do a great deal more.

I was especially interested in some of the suggestions of my noble friend Lord Burlison. But first, and in response to many speakers today, we intend to make sure that playing fields needed by schools and their communities are not sold in future. We are looking, with our partners inside and outside government, at a wide range of options to secure that. But while we intend to prevent the indiscriminate development of school playing fields, we have to be practical. A total ban on disposals would be too inflexible and against the interests of schools. We recognise that some schools use the proceeds from selling surplus land to develop sports facilities, for example, sports halls and all-weather pitches. We do not want to exclude the possibility of schools making imaginative and constructive use of their assets where it is in the interests of their pupils. Indeed, we have to encourage it. This is a "can-do" Government who face up to reality.

Secondly, the new national curriculum for initial teacher training will ensure that newly qualified teachers are properly equipped to teach PE. I know, as some speakers have suggested, that this has been a particular concern in primary schools. Our new requirements for initial teacher training now allow trainees to specialise across the seven to 11 years age range, so that for the first time primary school teacher trainees are able to specialise in PE as part of their course. Just as importantly, prospective teachers must now spend more time in schools while training and meet new standards which ensure that both primary teachers and PE specialists have the skills, knowledge and understanding to deliver the PE curriculum.

Thirdly, we shall be designating more sports colleges next month. Along with the first 11 sports colleges which began operating in September, they will raise the standard of physical education and community sport and will help young people benefit from the enhanced self-esteem, interpersonal and problem-solving skills which sports foster. While they are able to give priority to pupils who demonstrate the relevant aptitude for a particular sport or sports, we must ensure this does not become a back-door route to selection on the basis of general academic ability.

The Government intend to give these schools a new community focus in which new and exciting specialist schools are quite rightly expected to work in "families" of schools, with feeder primaries and other secondary schools, and with the local community, to spread more widely the benefits of expertise and the advanced provision that they can offer.

26 Nov 1997 : Column 1033

But partnership should not stop there. We need to encourage others who can contribute in some way to maximising the opportunities available to young people. The noble Lord, Lord Carew, referred to the fact that my right honourable friend Stephen Byers has today addressed the Girls' Schools Association. He is encouraging independent schools to foster closer links with the state sector, for example, by making sports and other facilities available to children from neighbouring maintained schools where they are able to help. I hope that they will respond positively. I was very sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, was so negative about that.

The public sector is also looking at its own resources. For example, the Ministry of Defence is considering whether it can open up some of its sports facilities to local schools. I hope that we can explore new aspects of partnership which will benefit all of our young people.

While on the subject of partnership, I have to say that the previous administration have not always had the best track record of co-operation between departments, and between departments and other agencies. But we need to practise what we preach. Co-operation and genuine partnership is at the heart of this Government's strategy, including where physical education and sport are concerned. In answer to the noble Lord, Lord McNally, my department has worked, and continues to work, very closely with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, with the English Sports Council and other partners on a range of complementary initiatives to enhance the profile of PE and sport in schools. Where appropriate, we shall also work with other relevant government departments.

Other co-operation which has borne fruit includes the sportsmark award scheme for recognising those secondary schools which achieve a high standard of sporting provision and have good policies for promoting sport. To be eligible, schools have to meet a number of requirements, including a minimum of two hours per week of timetabled PE, at least four hours of sport outside timetabled lessons and offer a range of activities to boys and girls of all abilities.

Working closely with those with an interest in PE and sport in schools, the English Sports Council is developing a proposal for a network of school-based community sports co-ordinators. These would be additional full or part-time teachers based in secondary schools with four key responsibilities: to develop support programmes for local primary schools; to build school-club links and "education for leisure" programmes within the school curriculum; to establish and support after-school sport programmes, to which we attach great importance; and to develop leadership and coaching programmes for senior pupils to gain appropriate qualifications to enhance their role within the sporting community. This looks like a particularly exciting means of enhancing the profile of PE and sport both within schools and, more widely, within the community.

Recently there has been a successful pilot of a scheme for sporting ambassadors which may interest the noble Lord, Lord Addington. This scheme provides for a

26 Nov 1997 : Column 1034

programme of school visits by top sports people, in order to encourage school children to participate in sport. We owe a debt to the noble Lord, Lord Cowdrey, for his work in chairing the ambassadors' committee.

A great deal has been said today about the importance of physical education and sport in school. What has been said reinforces the view that PE should be part of the entitlement of young people to a broad and balanced education.

I regret that the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, is no longer in his place. I gather that his back has finally given in and I hope that he will be better soon. I am sorry, however, that he introduced a slightly abrasive note into the debate. This subject seems a very good example of something on which we should have constructive, cross-party debates without an exchange of insults. I totally reject the noble Lord's claim that the Labour Party is against competitive sport in schools. That is utter rubbish. The Labour Party does not in any way take that view; nor do the Government.

However, I make no apologies that this Government's priorities are to improve standards in the basics of literacy and numeracy. We have set ourselves ambitious but realistic targets in these key skills, which young people must acquire if they are to make their way as successful adults in the 21st century, and we are determined to ensure that these targets are met.

Of course, learning is about development of the whole person, and while standards in the 3Rs are the top priority, children need much more as building blocks for learning and life. They need to develop their moral and social awareness; to have their curiosity stimulated in order to help them to develop the ability to learn; and, as we have heard today from so many speakers, to develop mentally and physically through good quality sports provision in schools. I was grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Woolton, for recognising the importance which the new government attach to sport in schools.

Cynics may argue that we cannot have it both ways--that we cannot have high standards in the basics and a broad and balanced education which includes good PE. I take issue with that. It is wholly consistent for us to raise standards in the basics while improving the provision of, and standards in, school sport. That is what we must do. Good PE is entirely complementary to our drive to improve standards in the basics. Indeed, it would be unthinkable for one to happen without the other.

5.24 p.m.

Lord McNally: My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the Minister for that meaty reply. All of us, and those who advise and lobby us, will want to read Hansard for the full extent of what the noble Baroness said, but I am glad that she gave the debate the response that those of us who participated wanted. The noble Baroness approached the matter in a non-partisan way and took the opportunity to put behind us some of the ideological differences on this issue in order to build a real national strategy.

Like the well disciplined team that we are, we are to come in well on time with this debate, so perhaps I may make just one or two comments. I very much appreciate

26 Nov 1997 : Column 1035

the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, referred to the young disadvantaged. That issue is very important to any debate about school sports strategy. Likewise, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, for picking up the very important issue of sport for the disabled. That matter is very much a part of policy.

We had one absentee today--the noble Lord, Lord Hunt (of Llanfairwaterdine) but I will always know him as Lord Hunt (of Everest). The noble Lord would have been present but for indifferent health and I know that he would have wanted to raise a point which might have challenged my noble friend Lord Addington. I refer to the merit of individual sports where the competition is with yourself, such as is the case with Outward Bound.

Noble Lords may know that my noble friend Lord Addington is one of the more eligible bachelors in this House. I wondered whether the noble Lord, Lord Lofthouse, might consider introducing my noble friend to one of the maidens of Featherstone who play Rugby League. That may help to bridge the gap.

The noble Lord, Lord Burlison, has spent his career playing for Hartlepool United. I am not sure whether that is a triumph of hope over experience or of joy through suffering.

What is certain, however, is that our four maiden speakers, coming from very different aspects of sport, were all well worth listening to. I know that their speeches will be well worth reading in Hansard tomorrow.

I have been delighted by the quality of the debate. The only sport in which I have ever been a member of the first team is darts, but some "jobsworth" said that it was not a sport. However, sport has always been very much a part of my life, and especially now that I have a young family. I have been checking what sport my son, John, aged seven, does at his local primary school. He has one and a quarter hours of key stage two sport, covering five specific areas: dance, team games, gym, adventure/outdoor activity and swimming. In addition, he has three sessions a week of basketball, football and swimming and we have an eight-mile cycle path in St. Albans. So, all is not gloom.

As I said, we have heard some excellent maiden speeches and our contributions as a whole have shown that blend of youth and experience which is the hallmark of all successful sports teams. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page