Harriet Harman MP, Labour's Deputy Leader and Shadow Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, today at the Aquatic Centre, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, made a speech on More Sport for all: Labour’s backing for more sport and physical activity for people of all ages in all areas.
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Introduction and thanks
I’m delighted to be here today at this amazing London Aquatic Centre. This iconic venue burst into our consciousness as all eyes were on our 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. It is that legacy we want to ensure is captured and not squandered. And I want to thank all of you for coming, on what is an important day for UK sport with the Commonwealth Games getting underway in Glasgow and massive hopes for real sporting excitement.
So, many thanks to Dennis Hone, of the London Legacy Development Corporation and Ros Collings and Madelaine Sutton from the L L D C who’ve done so much to facilitate today.
I want to pay tribute to Clive Efford, the Shadow Sports Minister, who you all know is truly knowledgeable about, and committed to, sport as well as being a qualified football coach, massive Millwall fan and dedicated parliamentarian and local MP for Eltham. I just want to see him move out of the “shadow” into being the actual sport minister. Our sports ministers were always big and important figures in Government delivering a high profile and high priority, radical agenda that was a key part of our Labour Government's objectives - think Tony Banks, think Dick Cabourn - and his work on the Olympics, think Gerry Sutcliffe and the facilities all around the country he opened. And if we get into government that's Clive will be, working with you to deliver a great programme which will see more sport and more physical activity for all people of all ages across the UK.
Why sport matters for public policy
And perhaps it is with my local constituency, the people I represent in Camberwell and Peckham, that I should start. Like everywhere in this country, they are sports mad. They lined the streets for the Olympic procession. During the World Cup, flags of countries from all over the world fluttered in the windows of the housing estates. Many local young people are fitness fanatics and many work, or want to work, in the sport and leisure industry. And parents, like parents all over the country, take their kids to play in the parks, learn to swim, play football. But we also have people who don’t do any sport or physical activity and need to. If you are one of the army of women of African origin living in my constituency, working all hours in care homes or doing cleaning work as well as bringing up your children, you are not likely to be found in the gym. In two of our wards we have alarmingly high level of obesity and people will suffer as a result with diabetes and heart problems, they will need more health care and they will die younger. And there's a huge gap between them and the active, exercising people in the wealthy wards down the road in Dulwich. Our local secondary schools have been rebuilt – with some great swimming pools and dance studios. But how many people in the streets around them get to use them? And open space for sport is at a premium in Camberwell and Peckham – though it’s very different just down the road with the rolling playing fields of the private schools like Alleyns and Dulwich College.
Sport for all
We want to ensure that everyone, from all ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, from all ages, from toddlers through to octogenarians, whether they live in crowded inner London or remote rural areas - gets to participate in and enjoy more sport and physical activity.
It’s a public policy priority for us because people love it, because we’re a great sporting nation (go anywhere in the world and you’ll see posters of David Beckham), because it’s important for health and well-being, because it helps young people do well at school, because it brings communities together with shared goals, it strengthens the local networks which reinforce a sense of place and diverts young people from crime.
And it generates jobs in the burgeoning sport and leisure sector. The operation of sports facilities and sports clubs alone provide 300,000 jobs in the UK. Further jobs are created in the health and fitness sector, and yet more in tourism based on sport.
And that’s why government should give a lead – with the DCMS working with local government and the sports sector and with other government departments. Clive and I work closely with our colleagues in our education team, Kevin Brennan our shadow schools minister is here, our Communities and Local Government team and importantly our health team. As you all know, in Andy Burnham, we have a sport-mad Shadow Health Secretary who is in no doubt about the health imperative of physical activity.
So we have issued a consultation document which poses the questions and invites engagement to shape a long-term strategy which will ensure a sustained boost to school, community and grass roots sport and see a sustained increase in physical activity. I hope that you will all respond to the consultation help us shape a strategy which we will put sports at the heart of our Manifesto for 2015. We were proud of what we did in government and we want to recommit to the energy and change that we committed to.
A sporting environment where all children have a chance
We want a sporting environment where all children have a chance. If you are one of those with exceptional talent and potential, we want you to try out a range of sports while you're young to find out which ones motivate you, be spotted early, and get the backing you need to help you take your talent as far as it will go.
The importance of competition
Early sport experience should be fun and help develop strength and co-ordination. But as children get older, competition has to be at the heart of sport and physical activity. Those children who excel at sport must be given every opportunity to realise their full potential and that means they must have opportunities for the best to compete against the best. Schools Games Competitions, which we started when we were in government, has been built on by the Youth Sports Trust. We would continue with this and build on it so that all children with outstanding talent have the chance to reach the elite level of competition.
And that shouldn’t depend on who you are.
Girls as well as boys must have that chance – we must tackle all the factors which put girls off, from negative stereo-types to poor changing facilities.
Children with disabilities must have the chance – they are every bit as entitled to a full choice of sports with facilities which are adapted to their needs.
Children of all different ethnic backgrounds should have the full range of opportunities - no child should be deterred by stereotypes about sports being one which people of a particular ethnicity are more or less likely to succeed.
And we don’t want young people from low income backgrounds to fail to achieve their potential because they don’t have well-off parents able to pay for extra-curricular sports activities.
Both mass participation and elite sporting achievement.
It is absolutely a false dichotomy to say public policy can either focus on elite competitive sports or mass participation.
But, even if they never win a medal, any child who engages in sport is more likely to enjoy the healthy pursuit of sport into adulthood.
Creating more opportunity for young children is unashamedly a strategy for success at the elite level. We know that the more children who take part in sporting activity the more likely the talent that is there will emerge. Mass participation, beneficial in and of itself, will identify more good, young, sportspeople. The good is not an obstacle to excellence, but a stepping stone to it.
So our answer is grounded in a community strategy – which starts with children.
A children’s sports entitlement – two hours sport in school
So we need a minimum amount of sport that every child does in school.
When we were in Government we introduced two hours of sport and PE each week for every school child. And by the time we left office in 2010, 9 out of 10 children were doing this - a huge increase from what the situation had been before. But the coalition government abandoned this 2 hour target, abolished School Sports Partnerships and scrapped the School PE and Sport Survey.
The result, inevitably, is that children’s participation in sport has fallen. A third of teachers report a decrease in participation by both primary and secondary children. To do this is particularly perverse when we had the once in a generation opportunity provided by the Olympics. The whole point about the UK bidding to host the 2012 Olympic Games was not only to put on a world class Olympics but also to boost sport among a new generation of children and young people and take a leap forward in young people’s participation in physical exercise. But this is not happening.
We know the two hours guideline worked, and we were moving on – we were measuring three hours and looking at a target of five hours in and out of school.
We want to move forward, starting with guaranteeing every primary school child will get a minimum of 2 hours PE and sport every week. We will commit to further progress, collecting the data and considering setting more stretching guidelines - in and out of school. And we will work with you, learning from what we did in government, to put that into practice.
The importance of sport for all in all schools is that it will reach every child. The centrality of sport in school is because you can engender good habits when they are young but also because you can ensure that you extend opportunities to children who will not get it at home. Opportunities at school are key to redressing inequalities in society. So sport in school is central to our sport strategy just as we've made arts, music and drama in school central to delivering our culture strategy.
Out of school clubs
We need to maximise the chances for children to do sport/PE out of school as well. We have already committed that we will set down in law a guarantee that every child will have access to wraparound care from 8am to 6m on school days. This new guarantee of after school provision will have sport mainstreamed into it. We know this will be popular with children and valued by parents as well as entrenching good physical activity for the future.
A children’s sports entitlement – sport taster days
Children need to have a broad range of sports and activity to choose from to discover what they enjoy and what they are good at from the myriad traditional and new ways of enjoying exercise and keeping fit, whether it’s Asian dance, ballroom, martial arts, pilates or football, netball, gymnastics and cycling.
And there is some really good practice going on like right here in Newham where every year 7 pupil - the first year of secondary school - gets access to over 20 sports as part of their PE curriculum. This sort of offer, providing children with taster sessions on different sports, will help them find the sports which can become part of their life, and will help local clubs find and recruit new, enthusiastic young participants.
We must build on this. I think that every child should have the chance to try out different sports and I will be working with Education Colleagues to see how we can make this an entitlement for all children. This will require trained community coaches and National Governing Bodies stepping up to play their part.
We have heard from stakeholders about their frustration of the lack of a clear vision for sport in the community. We have heard from small organisations about their bafflement and annoyance with the complexity of different funding streams emanating from different government departments. So, working across government departments, we will develop a ten year strategy for sport in the community – long term, coherent, cross-departmental.
Setting targets - for all and for the hard-to-reach
We will set objectives including a target, to increase the number of male and female participants. But concentrating only on participation could result in all the effort focussing on the easiest to reach - rather than the least fit and those with the least time or money.
So we would like to see an inclusion target to increase activity within hard to reach groups.
And we will look to local groups to back this up with local implementation plans.
We want these targets, and the action to achieve them, to be very much generated from the grass roots by county sports partnerships. But the local structures we put in place for sport were fragmented when School Sports Partnerships were abandoned. So, where the local structures are not in place we will ask Sport England to work with local authorities and others to get them up and running.
Grassroots sport needs funding for promotion, for facilities, for coaching. Elite sport already contributes to grassroots sport. But the challenge is for everyone to do more.
• can our National Governing Bodies do more with their funding, including meeting targets for getting women and girls playing sport?
• is the Premier League complying with the spirit as well as the letter of the 5% levy on TV rights? The latest deal for TV rights was £1billion a year for three years. 5% of that is £50m which would make a huge difference to community sport
• sports generate income for the betting industry - this is recognised in the Horse Race Betting Levy which contributes £82m to horse racing. But people bet on all sorts of sports now, not just racing. Should there be a similar levy so that businesses which make money from people betting on sport contribute to those sports?
Better facilities used for more sport
You can do a lot with good facilities. You can do even more with good facilities that enable people to play a range of different sport. An all-weather flood-lit football pitch with clean rooms for changing is great – but even better is a pitch that can have football on Saturday mornings, netball and basketball after school hours and keep fit classes during the day.
More people will play, more children, more young adults, more mums and dads and grans, more families playing together.
In our discussions with stakeholders, we have heard about bids for funding from National Governing Bodies which support new facilities for their sport, in preference to facilities which enable all sport. Can we incentivise and encourage facilities which have as wide as possible use and which communities can make the widest possible use of?
Women in sport
Turning next to the question of girls and women. We want girls and women to have the same chance to compete as boys, the same chance to enjoy sport and physical exercise, the same support for and recognition of their sporting achievements. This is right for the sake of the principle of equality. But it’s also important for women's health, jobs, sense of community - and all the issues I set out about the public policy imperative for sport.
But despite it being the 21st Century - where women are not prepared to be 2nd class citizens and we have amazing sporting icons like Jessica Ennis and Tanni Grey-Thompson - we are very far from equality in sport.
Girls are less likely to do sport at school, 1.8 million fewer women than men play sport regularly, in elite sport they get less sponsorship, lower prize money, less media attention, the public money (from men and women's taxes) that goes into national government bodies benefits women less than men and men-only sports clubs still have an exemption from the Equality Act.
The DCMS Select Committee will publish their report on women and sport tomorrow. They have done invaluable work bringing together all the hard evidence. I'm sure their findings will be compelling and that the changes they propose will be robust and well worthy of consideration for implementation.
• setting targets, monitoring and reporting on girls and boys participation in school sports
• ensuring PE staff are equipped to teach girls as well as boys
• thinking about girls as well as boys in relation to sports facilities
• ensuring that publicly funded National Governing Bodies support women in their sport and include more on their boards.
Half the young people in our schools are girls. They deserve equal access to sports. Our sportswomen train just as hard as men and compete just as seriously, yet their events get less media coverage, attract less prize money and the sponsorship deals are woeful. It’s time the media, governing bodies, sponsors and policy makers worked together to tackle sexism in sport. Our female athletes do us proud and they deserve equality.
Working across government for lifelong activity
We need to ensure that sports and physical activity is a part of every stage of life. And we need to look at all the particular points of change and opportunity in life to add in good sports and exercise habits.
Along with health services, and schools, local government can play a really important role - like Southwark Council - who are bringing in free swimming and gym use in all their leisure centres for all residents to enable them to be more fit and healthy and well as provide great community activity.
Even with toddlers and very young children, it’s not too early to start. Even if you've got to the age of 60 or even 80, it’s not too late to start.
This 10 year strategy of more sport for all is absolutely dependent on cross government working. Whether it’s transport developments supporting cycling, helping parents develop their child's physical literacy, including exercise in support of physical and mental health care, designing sport and activity into new developments, getting running tracks into the countryside. DCMS lead on this but it must run right through other government departments and local government. And ensure that the sports stakeholders - instead of getting different messages from different parts of government - can feed in to and be part of a coherent government vision.
We all know what needs to be done. The evidence is clear. What is needed is leadership, teamwork, commitment and action.