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What a weekend for sports fans.
Coming so soon after the Lionesses did us proud in the Women’s World Cup, we had Lewis Hamilton winning a record sixth British Grand Prix, one of the greatest Wimbledon finals ever and – for me the highlight – a barely believable Cricket World Cup final with England snatching victory from the jaws by the narrowest of margins. England’s netball team have also made a perfect start to their own World Cup campaign over the weekend.
With the Commonwealth Games coming to Birmingham in three years' time, we have an incredible opportunity to get more people involved in sports – and as with most things, it all starts at school.
I spoke in the debate on Education funding two weeks ago, calling for more money to be found for schools, nurseries and colleges in this summer’s Public Spending Review.
Our schools do so much to give children a great start in life and prepare them for the future. Part of that is obviously traditional academic education, but whilst qualifications and learning are extremely important, exams aren’t everything. Whilst some children excel in the classroom, others show a talent for the arts, for music or for sport.
Few of us will ever achieve the phenomenal feats we watched at the weekend, but sport really does have something to offer to everybody. As well as improving physical health, sports has been shown to support good mental health, as well as promoting key skills like teamwork, leadership and personal responsibility – exactly the sort of qualities we all want our young people to have.
I’m immensely proud that some schools in Dudley South are leading the way in instilling a positive attitude towards school sports in our children and I have witnessed this determination and desire in many of the teachers I have spoken to when visiting local schools in the last few months.
During National School Sports Week last month, I saw the fantastic sporting activities that children at the Glynne Primary School in Kingswinford were taking part in all week as part of the school’s push towards being more sport-orientated. It was great to see such enthusiastic teachers who were clearly actively engaged in the physical and mental welfare of the children.
Bromley Hills Primary School were the first school in the area to have a ‘daily mile track’ installed – using “Sports Premium” money they get from the Government – encouraging children to run, jog or walk a mile each day to keep fit and active.
Whilst visiting the school last week I was also impressed by Brook Primary School’s fabulous new Multi-Use Games Area. Schools in Dudley South really are taking the initiative to buy into these schemes and ensure our children stay fit and healthy to aid their performance in the classroom.
Every pupil should have the chance to find the sport they love. That’s why I was so pleased that the Government has published its ‘School Sport and Activity Action Plan’ to get more children exercising regularly and to make it easier for schools to build PE into the core curriculum for children of all ages. Schools will be given a £1.5m boost by Sports England to extend the number of Active Partnerships in schools, an additional £1m fund will be set-up to help more girls get into sport and improved guidance for teachers will also be provided, including 60 minutes physical activity each day for children.
I hope that children across the country will take inspiration from the achievements of Ben Stokes, Lucy Bronze and many other sporting heroes, and harness this passion for sport so we can continue to produce healthy generations of children that are fit to tackle the challenges of the modern world.