Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

It is hard to overestimate the value of this work or its impact on the lives of those taking part in the activities. Many clubs are working in deprived areas where there is no other football-based community work. In addition, more than 70 per cent of conference clubs offer youth development programmes, covering all age groups from eight to 18 for boys and girls. At

5 Jun 2008 : Column 312

least 6,000 young people are being involved in sport at these clubs. Their community programmes run regular coaching courses at schools outside school time. Most clubs offer the highest standard of football in their local areas—they do not always have Football League clubs in their immediate vicinity. Their work should be doubly applauded because, unlike the Premier League and Football League clubs, their central income from sponsorship and television is much smaller. They are under no compulsion to undertake youth football development or community initiatives. That happens because the clubs choose to do so.

I bring these issues to the Government's attention because, in the words of my noble friend's Motion, any,

needs to take account of the contribution that clubs in the Football Conference in particular, and in the national league system generally, can make towards it.

I have described briefly what is already being achieved with the most limited financial resources. Think, my Lords, how much more could be done with realistic levels of funding. I conclude by encouraging the Government to use their considerable influence with the Football Foundation to ensure that this is delivered in future.

2.45 pm

Lord Crisp: My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, on securing this debate and on emphasising the centrality of sport and physical activity in all aspects of life. I want to take one of those aspects—that is, the relationship between activity, sport and health—and stretch it a bit. Before doing so, I also pay tribute to the noble Lord for his analysis of the evidence involving health and the clear demonstration that there now is of the importance of physical activity and sport in many different aspects of health, mental as well as physical.

I want to add a further point: internationally—the noble Lord raised the example of Finland—these issues will become ever more important. As developing countries become more affluent, you see the growth in lifestyle diseases and the problems of affluence, which include the sorts of problems that we are suffering from. The issues that we are raising in this debate are important on the international scene as well.

I want to stretch the discussion a bit by talking more about not just physical health but mental health and well-being—the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, raised that—social health and spiritual health. We have known for a long time of the association between physical activity and all these other aspects of health. The Victorians knew about it but, for quite a long time, we seem to have lost it from public policy. Sport and physical activity was an add-on to education. I speak as one who was a member of the National Playing Fields Association and campaigned for the retention of school playing fields on the grounds that sport was not just an add-on but was quite often a subtraction, as has already been said. In reality, if noble Lords will excuse me extending the analogy, it needs to be much more of a multiplier and should benefit whatever else is going on in a school and a child’s development.

5 Jun 2008 : Column 313

For any new strategy, the key issue is whether it will be genuinely cross-governmental with commitments from all the relevant parts of government. I am sure that the words will be cross-governmental, but the key is that this needs not just joined-up thinking but joined-up implementation and it should be accompanied by an appropriate implementation plan. Let me take three examples, which I think will be tests of the new strategy. The first is for the Department of Health and people working in health. I pick the aspect raised by the noble Lord, Lord Pendry: mental health. We know that people suffering from mental illness are often very isolated from society and occupied within themselves. We also know that there is good evidence that physical activity is beneficial clinically. Will the strategy specifically address that sort of issue? Will it deal not just with the young and healthy but with the older, the infirm and those who are mentally ill? Will we take the opportunity of the Olympics, as friends of mine in east London have said, to draw into sport people from all sectors of society who are not normally engaged in sport?

The second question is more for the Department for Communities and Local Government. How will such a strategy tackle the issues of social inclusion and social coherence? I was struck by the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, about issues to do with particular sectors of our society and people from black and minority ethnic communities. One again thinks of girls and women, as the noble Lord said. How will that be addressed, particularly in view of the fact that we know that some of those communities are especially vulnerable to some lifestyle diseases? The one statistic that I will add to those given by the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, is that people from south Asian backgrounds are, I believe, six times more likely to get diabetes type 2 than those from the majority community. It is important that the strategy reaches everywhere.

I want to emphasise, however, how this will be linked into education. I recognise that a great deal is already going on, that the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority is seeking the development of a new integrated curriculum and that Every Child Matters lays responsibilities on departments to bring all those activities together. But let me give one example that I came across recently, the kind of example that needs to be tackled if we are to have joined-up implementation. It reminds me of the interesting quote from the noble Lord, Lord Taylor—if I wrote it down properly—to the effect that inspiration cannot be taught, it can only be caught. David Hemery, the Olympic athlete, is leading a programme called Olympian for Life. The aim of this unique and special project is to inspire and empower young people and to help them become independent thinkers. That is the starting point; it is not immediately about sport and physical activity. He says:

5 Jun 2008 : Column 314

this is really important—

David Hemery talks about four intelligences: physical intelligence, intellectual intelligence, emotional intelligence and spiritual intelligence, and the importance of all of them being linked. I would ask the Government whether they will be ambitious enough in their aims for the new strategy. Will they see the linkage that David Hemery examples in the four intelligences, with physical intelligence linked with the intellectual, emotional and spiritual intelligences and all the interactions that go with that?

I am not here to speak for the project. It looks very good to me, but I do not know the details. However, it raises the big question of how ambitious we want to be and how fully integrated we think sport and physical activity need to be with every other aspect of development of the whole child. For me, it raises two questions. First, in practice, how does a good deal like that get backing? I know that not every idea is good, and that not every good idea is timely or can be followed through. I also know that the Government sometimes have their own plans. The key is what mechanisms there are to enable a practical project which seeks to implement the fine words of strategy. How do we ensure that implementation is followed through and that we understand not only joined-up thinking but also joined-up implementation and that the various departments involved will work together?

Secondly, I shall not give any tales of sporting prowess, but I remember from my schooldays and from friends' schooldays that we probably divided into two sorts: those who liked all the sporting activities and those who rather loathed them. I know numbers in the second category, although I am sure that there are none in the Chamber, as they would not be taking part in this debate. I know life has moved on and that, with recent policy, there is much more emphasis on physical activity. I know that there are many interesting examples, such as schools in London, where the children have short breaks for physical activity interspersed with academic activity. It is recognised that that helps people to learn better. If that is really to be integrated in schools, implementation depends not only on a plan but on individuals.

My question concerns what any strategy will do about motivating the teachers. This is actually about sport in education, not for PE teachers but for all teachers, and about understanding how that links in with all other aspects of life. What is being done about that? In such a strategy, who will ensure that teachers and not just their pupils are Olympians for life?

I am delighted to take part in this debate. I very much support the emphasis on physical activity, physical education and sport. Coming from a health background, I know that health improves only where it is linked with education, activity, diet and all aspects of our lives. It is an all-round programme. I also know that research demonstrates that but that we need to undertake important research to show not just the links between physical activity and health, but

5 Jun 2008 : Column 315

what we need to do to make those links work effectively. That is another very practical point about implementation.

Slightly tongue in cheek, I also wonder whether the Government will learn from sport. One of the chairs in my previous life was a man called Sir Brian Smith who used to use a sporting analogy in talking about how management had changed. He recalled how when he was a young man playing games of rugby, hockey, and football people played in a fixed position either as a centre-forward, left-back or full-back and they stayed in that position, as though they were pieces in a table football team. Over the years, however, the game has developed and people started moving about and backing each other up. There are now different formations and people fill in and multitask; they flex according to how the game is going and they flex to each other. Noble Lords can see where my analogy is going. Can the Government move away from the basis of independent departments working within their fixed domains? Can those departments play the modern game?

2.56 pm

Lord Rosser: My Lords, like others, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Pendry on providing us with the opportunity to debate this important issue, in which he has taken a close interest and over which he has had a positive and powerful influence for many years.

Much as I enjoy watching and celebrating the successes of our top teams and top sportsmen and sportswomen, my greater area of interest is in sport and participation in sport at the less exalted levels, where the money, the adulation and hero worshipping do not flow so readily but where the enthusiasm, commitment and dedication of the participants and those who coach and organise the activities, often in their own free time without financial reward, know no bounds. Such people need support and encouragement, including financial support, and I believe that the Government have done a great deal in this direction.

Last year, I completed a parliamentary sports fellowship. The organisation with which I was particularly involved was Sport England. I was able to visit some of the projects in which it had played a major role with its partners in getting them up and running in different parts of the country. Sport England is concerned with the less glamorous side of the sporting scene—the grass-roots and community level of sports participation—although, through the support that it gives, a small number of highly talented individuals develop their skills to such a level that they come under the umbrella of UK Sport, the organisation geared to the needs of our top performers.

Sport England is not just about financing investment in infrastructure and facilities, important though that is. It also plays a key role in ensuring that appropriately qualified staff, including coaches, are provided to enable and to encourage people of all ages and from all backgrounds to take up a physical or sporting activity. I want to mention some aspects of the work that Sport England is doing and has done with the younger generation.

5 Jun 2008 : Column 316

Sport England has been involved in the Government’s physical education and sport strategy for young people from its outset in April 2003. The Government provide funding. Sport England’s aim is to reduce the number of children dropping out of sport at age 16. One important way of doing that is through delivering the community and club element of the five-hour sport offer, to which my noble friend Lord Pendry referred.

The original target in 2003 was to offer all five to 16 year-olds two hours of high-quality physical education and school sport a week within and beyond the school day. In the summer of last year, the Prime Minister announced that five to 16 year-olds would be offered up to five hours of sport a week, with 16 to 19 year-olds having three hours, because they do not do curriculum PE. He also announced an additional £100 million investment. Sport England’s investment increases from just over £8 million in 2007-08 to £23.1 million each year from 2008-09. Total government investment in school sport and the five-hour sport offer has been over £1 billion for the five years to March 2008. The take-up of the two-hour offer, which was the original objective in 2003, has risen from an estimated 25 per cent of five to 16 year-olds in 2002 to 86 per cent in 2007. The progress made has exceeded the target set in 2003, which was for 75 per cent of schoolchildren to be doing at least two hours of sport a week by 2006, rising to 85 per cent by 2008. That is not failure, as was suggested earlier, but success.

As my noble friend Lord Pendry said, playing fields now have the best ever protection through government planning regulations and arrangements. Schools are not allowed to sell playing fields that they or their communities need for sport. More playing fields are now being created than lost. In its last annual review, which was for 2006-07, Sport England reported that the most recent 12-monthly figures then available showed that 62 brand-new playing fields had been created, a number that had grown for the second year running, and that only two had been completely lost.

The percentage of children and young people participating in club sports has also risen, from 19 per cent in 2003-04 to 29 per cent in 2006-07, and the percentage of older pupils involved in sports volunteering, whether in mentoring, coaching or helping to organise activities, has risen from 9 per cent in 2003-04 to 17 per cent in 2006-07.

As I saw, Sport England has been playing, and will continue to play, a leading role in creating more and stronger links between schools and sports clubs, a role that is vital if we are to reduce the figure of 25,000 16 year-olds who drop out of sport every year. Sport England also works to provide volunteering and leadership opportunities in sport by providing the training facilities to enable people, including young people, to take on that kind of role by developing their own skills and involvement in a range of activities and through that work to provide the encouragement and organisation to enable others to continue or begin their association with sport.

5 Jun 2008 : Column 317

Creating additional supply and demand within community sport and clubs is a further area of activity for Sport England. While providing the physical infrastructure is important, at least as important is providing resources for qualified staff to coach, train and manage so that existing facilities can be used and developed to maximum effect and benefit and so that activities can be extended.

Sport England seeks to work through national sports governing bodies. I hope that the Government have stressed to all governing bodies that, working with Sport England, they have a responsibility for increasing participation rates in their sport within the community as a whole and that it will be unacceptable if they direct a disproportionate amount of their time, commitment and financial resources to the development and promotion of the top clubs and top sportsmen and sportswomen within their particular sport at the expense of increasing overall participation rates. I hope that financial and other resources from Sport England to national governing bodies will be conditional on their producing acceptable plans on how they intend to increase participation rates across the community, including among young people, women and black and minority ethnic groups. I hope that the Minister will feel able to say clearly and specifically that that is the Government’s position.

Of course, some governing bodies are already doing good work in encouraging more involvement in their sport within the wider community. One such sport is cricket. “Chance to Shine” is the Cricket Foundation’s campaign to revive and develop competitive cricket in state schools and, in so doing, to achieve the wider community benefits that the impact on participants of involvement in team sports and well managed competition can bring. The campaign was launched three years ago with the objective of raising £25 million of private funding, which the National Sports Foundation, led by the Government and administered by Sport England, is committed to matching pound for pound. In 2005, Cricket Foundation research showed that less than 10 per cent of state schools offered pupils opportunities to take part in at least five organised matches per year. The aim is to establish, over 10 years, a sustainable cricket culture within at least one-third of all state schools in England and Wales and in the process to reach some 2 million young people, both boys and girls. I am sure that this is the kind of sports project that the Government are seeking to encourage and develop across a broad front.

Of course, sport is not just about young people. Half the adult population—those of 16 years of age or older—do not participate in sport on a regular basis. The ambition of Sport England is to get 2 million people doing more sport by 2012. The target level of sports activity is 30 minutes at least three times a week. Twenty-one per cent of adults currently achieve that target and 28 per cent do sport between one and three times a week. When we break down the 21 per cent of adults who currently achieve the target, the figure is just over 19 per cent from black and minority ethnic groups, 9.5 per cent of those with a

5 Jun 2008 : Column 318

limiting disability, just over 15 per cent of those from lower socio-economic groups and 18.5 per cent of females.

Improving those figures needs resources. In 2006-07, Sport England, financed by National Lottery and Exchequer funding, invested in a range of areas including: £64 million into the 38 national sports governing bodies; just over £4 million into school-club links to connect schools, sports clubs and children; some £38 million as part of a five-year programme to improve sports clubs’ organisation and facilities, including more coaching staff, to further raise the skills, particularly of those with identified potential, at those clubs; over £10 million on a programme launched in 2005 that has already exceeded its objective by training and providing over 3,300 community sport coaches working locally running after-school sessions and developing club sport; over £14 million capital investment in community club development projects; and £4 million in encouraging teenagers to play a variety of volunteering roles in sport, including managing events and facilities and running clubs, as well as taking on assistant coaching and refereeing roles. Also in 2006-07, nearly £17 million from National Lottery funding went into over 230 regional sports projects and over £9 million went into the 49 county sports partnerships to help the delivery of sport within counties.

All these areas of activity, like the work being done to increase the involvement in sport of young people, receive very little publicity, with very little credit given for the many thousands of individuals, the organisations such as Sport England and local government that, with government and lottery funding, are enabling real progress to be made. Taking part in sport and physical activity not only offers a purposeful pursuit and keeps people healthy, but can help to develop leadership and teamwork skills, build confidence and provide participants with a real sense of achievement.

I appreciate that a balance has to be drawn between, on the one hand, investing to meet the needs of our potential and actual top sportsmen and sportswomen and the stimulus and enjoyment that their achievements can provide to many others and, on the other, the benefits, not only to the millions of individuals concerned but also to the community as a whole, of investing to encourage and facilitate an increase in sporting and physical activity among the population as a whole. It is not an either/or situation. However, money spent on grass-roots community sport and physical activity is money well spent, as this Government have recognised through the resources that they have provided. I hope that the Minister will, as well as responding to the specific points that I have raised, be able to indicate how the Government intend to make still further progress in developing and facilitating involvement and participation at the less exalted and less publicised levels of the sports pyramid and in so doing provide further encouragement to those many thousands of individuals and organisations that work so hard and contribute so much in this field.

5 Jun 2008 : Column 319

3.09 pm

Lord Selsdon: My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, for introducing this debate. I never use the word “congratulate” because it means to thank collectively, and I would like to thank him individually because I have the advantage of knowing more about what he has done in this world than he knows about what I have done. I have spent most of my life as an ungifted amateur trying to play every game, including politics—never with much success. At school, I was slightly hyperactive, and instead of the required nine hours a week—we should normally have done 11 hours—I would do 20. We had to go on three-mile and six-mile runs. We had to play every game, and I would get up early, probably because I was not sufficiently academic. I wanted to be good at cricket but I was not; I was always the promising cricketer. Although I have been in your Lordships’ House for 45 years, I have been a member of the MCC for 47 years, because I was then a promising cricketer whose career was never realised. I wear the tie today because the ball will be swinging in every direction at Trent Bridge today, no doubt guided by the ancestors of my noble friend here.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page