Government meets PE participation targets

Targets for children’s participation in physical education have been met a year early, according to a report released by the government today.

The 2006/07 School Sport Survey found 86 per cent of school pupils now take part in at least two hours of PE each week.

The government had previously set a target of 85 per cent of children taking part in two hours of sport a week by 2008 – meaning the target has been met a year early.

“It’s vital children and young people are healthy and happy so they can do well in life and I’m delighted so many more children are now taking part in school sport – there has been a quiet revolution over the last few years,” said Ed Balls, secretary of state for children, schools and families.

“Sport – like school food – is important to improve children’s lives and reduce childhood obesity. There is now a wide variety of sporting opportunities available, including both the traditional and the less familiar.”

The findings are based on a survey of more than 21,700 maintained schools, and attribute the success to a widening number of sporting options open to children.

However, the Conservative party suggested problems were more widespread than the government admit.

“Any increase in take-up of sport at school is welcome. But as usual these figures hide the real problem, which is that one third of children give up all sport when they leave school and Britain has one of the lowest membership rates of sports clubs in Europe,” said Jeremy Hunt, shadow secretary of state for the Department of Culture.

“If we are going to tackle obesity we need a lifelong exercise approach – precisely what has been made more difficult by raids on lottery funds for grassroots sports organisations.”

The party also pointed out the rate of increase is slowing and questioned how the government was going to meet the new target of five hours of sport for each child by 2010.

Yet, the government says the variety of sports has been key to success.

Secondary schools now offer an average of 21.7 different sports to their pupils – ranging from mountaineering to kabbadi but also including more traditional activities.

Primary schools offer an average of 16 sports.

And while newer activities – such as golf, orienteering, canoeing and archery – have all grown in popularity, traditional sports still dominate.

Football remained the most popular sport, offered by 98 per cent of schools, while dance (96 per cent) and gymnastics (95 per cent) were also popular.

Nevertheless, the Liberal Democrats have also cautioned the government not to overstate their achievements.

“Under the surface lie a series of unfulfilled promises, shifting goalposts and questionable claims,” said Don Foster, Liberal Democrat shadow culture, media and sport secretary.

“Many of Labour’s promises for sports provision simply have not materialised and others look extremely dubious.

“If the government is to tell parents and teachers to do more to get kids active, it must practice what it preaches and deliver on some of its own promises.

“It is very worrying that several manifesto commitments have still not been met and key funding not provided, while obesity continues to rise at an alarming rate.”