§ The Minister for Sport (Mr. Tony Banks)
The English Sports Council has a number of initiatives under way to encourage sport in schools, including the sportsmark scheme, the sporting ambassadors scheme and the TOPS programme. In addition, the English Sports Council is working up proposals for an activity award for primary schools and looking at the introduction of community sports co-ordinators in schools.
§ Mr. Bradshaw
Does my hon. Friend share my concern about the potential impact on sport of the otherwise excellent literacy and numeracy hour in primary schools? If so, what more could be done to encourage sports activities out of school hours?
§ Mr. Banks
I have had a number of discussions with the Under-Secretary of State for Education and 5 Employment, my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Ms Morris), about physical education in schools. It has to be made clear that physical education remains compulsory for all five to 16-year-olds, and the Office for Standards in Education will examine PE in schools. I am one of those who believe that it is ridiculous to suggest that bright kids read books and thickos do sports, but some element of that stereotyping seems still to exist. Literacy and numeracy are assisted by physical education, so I am not concerned in that sense. I am, however, keeping a careful eye on matters.
I have completely forgotten the second part of my hon. Friend's question—[Laughter.] These things happen; old men forget, as Duff Cooper once said.
§ Mr. Banks
Yes, thank you. I am delighted that I am still hanging on in there, holed up in the DCMS with a "Come in and get me, copper" notice on the door.
After-school clubs will have a significant sporting element. They are one initiative among many to encourage after-school activities. I must emphasise again that sport is very important for an individual's overall development.
§ Mr. Richard Spring (West Suffolk)
We are all crossing our fingers on the Minister's behalf.
Does the Minister not recognise the damage that the undoubted marginalisation of PE in primary schools will have on sport? Is it not the truth that he has absolutely no idea of what sport is undertaken in schools? May I urge him to institute a proper inquiry—instead of piecemeal offerings—into the true situation so that we can begin to resolve the matter in a truly co-ordinated way?
§ Mr. Banks
The new flexibility that has been introduced into the teaching of the curriculum has been welcomed by more than 90 per cent. of all schools, something that the hon. Gentleman has to bear in mind. In reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Bradshaw), I said that it was something that we needed to keep an eye on from the point of view of sports. It comes back to the problem that so much of sport is, as it were, outside my immediate brief and outside that of the Department. I have had a series of meetings with the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Employment, my hon. Friend the Member for Yardley, who is herself a former PE teacher. She and I agree entirely on the importance of PE in schools, and I am certainly looking at a more co-ordinated way of trying to evaluate the range and intensity of sports in schools. It is something that we shall continue to work on in close co-operation.