Harness patriotism and stop decline in children’s sport, says Starmer

Children are being “locked out of emulating their heroes” due to falling PE provision, Sir Keir Starmer has said.

Labour has committed to halting the decline in children’s access to team sports, saying the next generation of sporting talent could only be developed by “harnessing the strength of England’s national pride”.

Speaking ahead of St George’s Day on Tuesday, Sir Keir said sporting pride “runs deep in the nation’s psyche” and formed “a cornerstone of our national life”.

The Labour leader said: “When I speak to young people up and down the country, the confidence, pride and patriotism that comes with national sport is clear for all to see. And that patriotism is a force for good in English sport.

The number of hours of PE taught in secondary schools fell to just under 286,000 in 2022/23, 4,000 hours less than the previous year and around 40,000 less than in 2011/12.

Labour said there was a significant gap in participation between pupils and state schools and private schools, while girls were three times less likely to take part in sport than boys.

The party has pledged to provide equal access to sport for girls and boys and reform the curriculum to ensure children at state schools do not miss out on PE.

Sir Keir said: “I fell in love with football from an early age and fondly look back on the hours I spent with a ball at my feet, bouncing from pitch to pitch with my friends. Like countless others, it boosted my confidence and shaped my identity.

“But many young people now don’t have that same opportunity. That’s why my Labour Party will ensure that every child has the chance to be active at school and reform the curriculum to strengthen PE, sports and arts access.

“We must widen access for the next generation, because if playing team sports is the preserve of a handful of children, we will simply miss out on the talents of so many.

Angela Richardson, deputy chairwoman of the Conservative Party, accused Labour of wanting to “politicise childhood health”.

She said: “The truth is that childhood obesity is higher in Labour-run Wales than under this Conservative Government in England.”

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