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House of Lords

Wednesday, 17th May 2000.

The House met at half-past two of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Prayers--Read by the Lord Bishop of Bristol.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

Matthew Evans, Esquire, CBE, having been created Baron Evans of Temple Guiting, of Temple Guiting in the County of Gloucestershire, for life--Was, in his robes, introduced between the Lord Rogers of Riverside and the Lord Bragg.

Lord Roper

John Francis Hodgess Roper, Esquire, having been created Baron Roper, of Thorney Island in the City of Westminster, for life--Was, in his robes, introduced between the Lord Thomson of Monifieth and the Lord Newby.

Schools: Physical Education

2.48 p.m.

Lord Dormand of Easington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the standard of physical education in all types of school is satisfactory.

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): My Lords, physical education teaching is satisfactory or better in most schools according to Ofsted. To bring in further improvements we have recently launched our strategy, A Sporting Future for All, which proposes increasing specialist sports colleges to 110; the creation of school sports co-ordinators to expand the range of sports activities in 600 secondary schools and up to 3,000 linked primary schools; setting up a national advisory panel on school playing fields to back up our already tough measures on sales; and steps to improve teacher training. We want to encourage all schools to provide at least two hours of PE and sport each week.

Lord Dormand of Easington: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. However, is she aware that the two separate reports which have been issued by Sport England and by Speednet show that more than half a million hours of physical education are being lost in primary schools? Is she further aware that the annual report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools, which she just mentioned, states that in primary schools one-third of progress is good? Presumably, two-thirds is not so good.

As regards secondary schools, is my noble friend aware of the fear that is expressed of the effect of paying PGCE physical education students for their

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final year, compared with the four-year commitment for undergraduates in physical education who receive no such payment?

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I am aware of the figures that my noble friend has just produced. There is a slight reduction in the number of hours that are devoted to physical education in primary schools. That is a matter that the Government want schools to address. I am also aware of the points that my noble friend made about Ofsted. However, I do not think he should assume that the other two-thirds that he mentioned are not satisfactory. Ofsted has shown that across all ages the provision of physical education in our schools is on the whole satisfactory. Of course that does not mean to say that we should be complacent. More should be done. That is why I listed some of the measures that the Government are taking. The applications for teaching physical education in our schools are buoyant.

Lord Monro of Langholm: My Lords, what are the Government doing to encourage team games in schools and inter-school fixtures, all of which do so much to encourage discipline and leadership? They have a tremendous effect on school morale if one is on the winning side. Nowadays PE teachers devote far too much time to individual sports and not enough to team sports, which offer so many more advantages.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, the Government feel that a range of PE activities should be provided in our schools, of which team sports are an important part. However, I do not entirely accept the implication of the noble Lord's remarks; namely, that individual sports are not highly appropriate for many young people. I mention the example of dance. Dance is taught to groups of young people and it is an appropriate activity for many teenage girls who may not wish to participate in team sports. Of course, competitions of the kind that the noble Lord has mentioned are also--

Noble Lords: Oh!

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I am not sure what is so surprising about suggesting that adolescent girls derive much physical education and exercise from dance, which is demanding and stretches the body. It is part--and only one part--of what schools provide in the form of PE. As regards competitive sport and competitions between schools, the Government encourage that but, in the end, it is a matter for school governing bodies and head teachers.

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, do the Government really consider that dance is a sport; it certainly was not in my day?

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Baroness has carefully read my noble

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friend's Question, which is not about sport but about physical education. I state categorically that dance provides opportunities for physical education.

Lord Addington: My Lords, perhaps I may confine my remarks to the issue of sport as opposed to PE generally. Does the Minister agree that, in the short and medium term, amateur sports clubs will be the only answer to this historical problem in our school system? As they are subsidising this very important part of our national education system, what is the attitude of the Minister and her department towards ensuring that amateur sports clubs do not pay out quite so much in tax?

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, the taxation of amateur sports clubs is not an issue with which I am familiar. I therefore cannot answer the noble Lord's question in that regard. However, a great deal of extra curricular sporting activity, including team sports, is now taking place in our schools and, indeed, it is growing. Of the wide variety of extra curricular activities which now take place, team sports are the most popular. There should be some encouragement of amateur sporting clubs to work with schools in this regard.

Lord Peston: My Lords, I hate to introduce a disagreeable note before my noble friend, but could I ask her to reflect back to her own schooldays, as I do to mine? Physical education--or, as we called it, PT--was the most ghastly event of the day. It left us hot and sticky and, although we did not have the benefits of the national curriculum, it certainly put us off studying anything that our teachers wanted us to learn for the rest of the day. Why is such great emphasis placed on this activity? It actually puts people off that kind of physical exertion for the rest of their lives.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I am sure that my noble friend was very good at many sports. He is certainly a football fanatic; I cannot believe that he did not play it while at school. We should all remember the wonderful scene in the film Kes, which showed how team sports should not be taught in our schools. It is all a matter of how it is done. Sport should be taught in such a way as to encourage all young people, including those who are not particularly talented and who will never make the school team, but who may be--to come back to what I said earlier--rather good at some kind of individual sport.

Lord Glentoran: My Lords, does the Minister agree that in three out of four of the age ranges the Government have failed to achieve their target of two hours PE per week? What are the Government doing to reverse the decline of 19 per cent in the recruitment of PE teachers?

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, as regards PE teachers in our secondary schools, the recruitment figures demonstrate that there are no shortages. As I

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said earlier, there is a high demand from young people wishing to work in this particular area. As to the noble Lord's point about not meeting targets, we have not set targets; we have issued guidelines. The previous Government did not introduce guidelines, but we have, and we shall be monitoring the effects of that guidance over the coming months and next year.

Employers: Family Friendly Policies

2.56 p.m.

Lord Northbourne asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will consider requiring all public limited companies to make, in their annual report, a statement about their policy in relation to employees who have caring responsibilities for children.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the Government have no plans at present to introduce such a requirement.

Lord Northbourne: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, up to a point, for that reply. Does he agree that in this context it is important that employers should be brought to think about this problem in the same way as they are asked in their annual report to think about the environmental and equal opportunities responsibilities of their companies? Does he agree that in the past three or four decades British business and industry have benefited enormously from a major influx of working mothers? Is it too much to ask that boards of directors should be asked to spend perhaps two or three minutes once a year pondering whether they are exercising their responsibilities appropriately in regard to their employees who have children--not only because of their social responsibility in the matter but because those children are the workforce of tomorrow?

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