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Hansard 1 Mar: Column 628-652 ...
Hansard 1 Mar: Column 628-652

Six hundred sports co-ordinators will be appointed over the next four years to boost physical education and sport in schools - primary and secondary - the government pledged after a lords debate, during which government policy came under attack from all parts of the house.

The debate was initiated by former England cricket captain Lord Cowdrey, a Conservative peer. But the most incisive criticism of the effect of the national curriculum on PE and sport came from Labour's Lord Puttenam, who chairs the General Teaching Council and the education standards task force.

Lord Cowdrey said the problems were that headteachers were overwhelmed by too many pupils to cope with, inadequate sports facilities, and too few PE teachers, who worked with enormous zeal - but like all teachers, were endlessly plagued by having to fill in endless forms.

Lord Puttenam said he despaired at the government's announcement 'that as we escape from the bindweed of illiteracy, PE will once more be reinstated in the curriculum'. But he despaired at the government's aspiration that from September pupils would have at least two hours of physical activity, would include curriculum time and 'out of school learning opportunities'.

He said in policy terms - in the jargon - this was a 'no-brainer'. It was possible - as public schools proved - to have both academic and sporting execellence. The health and social benefits of sport were not in dispute.

Lord Puttnam concluded: 'The question is simple: is the long-term health of our children and the overwhelming sense of national pride that comes from national success worth the price tag attached?'

It was a question of national will which lay with the government, he added.

For the government, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, said many schools already achieved the two-hour aspiration, and more. To achieve that in more schools 600 sports co-ordinators would be appointed over four years to organise programmes to bring qualified coaches into both primary and secondary schools to support teachers and coach pupils. They would organise inter-school competitions, build links between groups of schools, and bring families together with schools and local authority sports development officers and governing bodies of sport.

Lord Bassam said the sport co-ordinators had a great deal to contribute , both in schools and out-of-hours clubs. And£160m was available from the New Opportunities Fund and£80m from the DfEE standards fund to support out-of-school funding, including sport.

In addition, the government planned 100 specialist sports colleges by September 2003. Thirty-seven were up and running; 23 more had been designated, and they would receive additional DfEE funding, working with primary and secondary schools in their area to raise standards.

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