This week, I contributed to the ‘Sport in Schools and the Community’ debate. The debate was good-natured, with much cross-party agreement and gave me an opportunity to flag the various issues where we could and should be doing better, especially with only 47% of young people being active for the recommended 60 minutes or more per day.
Firstly, for schools, I very much welcome efforts to both increase the number of PE teachers and the general confidence / experience of other teachers to help make sure there is a minimum of 2 hours offered each week. Recently, I hosted a meeting with the Schools Minister and the Professional Footballers Association looking to link up their support for ex-footballers as they embark on a new career. The PFA will often even cover any costs associated with the training – a real win, win.
I have long pushed for school sports facilities to be opened and used by local clubs and groups. This should be a given, not an exception, and when new schools are built, we should look at factoring in the sports facilities missing, or ideal for dual use – such as cricket, gymnastics, dance studios etc.
We need to encourage more sports camps, like the popular Draycotts Sports Camp – both for opportunities and as part of the Government’s ambitious Holiday Activities Scheme. These are great ways to keep children active and are a real help to busy, working parents in the school holidays. I also credited both Haydon Wick and St Andrews Parish Council for their support in the summer to extend the Holiday Activities Scheme in their respective areas.
Secondly, for the community. Most importantly, a big thank you to the thousands of volunteers who provide so many opportunities across our town.
I shared the best practice of my annual Summer Activities Fayre, where I invite clubs, groups and activities to The Orbital on the Saturday before the summer holidays to promote all the different things to engage children. This is always very popular.
Good planning is also key – making sure sports facilities and useable open space (such as the ‘green lung’ alongside Tadpole Garden Village) are provided at the beginning, not the end of new developments. Working with local organisations: Benjamin’s Smile and Moms On A Mission, we continue to make progress on making sure all play parks include accessible play equipment, something Swindon is very much leading on thanks to the support of Swindon Borough Council and the respective Parish Councils.
Whilst welcome, the latest round of Energy Support schemes for businesses has missed off Leisure Centres – swimming pools specifically have high energy use, so most MPs rightly pressed for the need for an urgent tweak here.
I highlighted the best practice of many of our local clubs where they have been able to take on their own facilities, helping secure grants and volunteers to expand. These include: Stratton Juniors Football Club, Highworth Town Juniors FC, Swindon Tennis Centre, Swindon Manor Indoor Bowls and Esprit Gymnastics.
Finally, I offered my continued support for the forthcoming White Paper on the Fan Led Review of Football. I was joined by Clem Morfuni and Rob Angus, the owner and CEO of Swindon Town FC as we met with the EFL to discuss progress. It was great to catch up on their continued positive work in engaging with fans and building the foundations for a sustainable and upwards future.
I will continue to do all I can as an MP – both locally and nationally – to promote this issue and build on the work already done.