Ben Bradley MP has continued his campaign to reopen school sports facilities by holding an adjournment debate in the House of Commons.
Mr Bradley opened the debate my expressing the importance of the topic and saying “It is an issue very close to my heart as a self-confessed sports fanatic, hockey coach, occasional football referee, parent of kids involved in grassroots football and someone whose original ambition was to be a PE teacher.” He then went on to highlight the importance of sport - particularly grassroots and community sport.
The Mansfield MP argued that “role sport plays and the value of it in the education and development of the next generation have, quite frankly, always been undervalued by Governments of all stripes” but did highlight the fact that this Government has been “investing in new sports centres, and lots of levelling-up funds and other funds have recently come forward for new facilities, including Warsop leisure and health centre in my constituency. That is really positive, and means that, thanks to this Government, we will finally replace the old, dilapidated leisure centre that the Mansfield independent-led council closed around four years ago.”
However, he vented his frustration at the fact that 45% of sports facilities within state funded schools have no public access. In particular, Mr Bradley was frustrated that, due to rising costs post-Covid, this figure is likely to have increased. The Mansfield MP pointed to his own constituency and Manor Academy as an example of where this has happened and emphasised the impact this move had on the local hockey club and community.
The Minister for Children, Families and Wellbeing, Claire Coutinho MP, praised Mr Bradley for holding the debate and acknowledged that he “has been a long-standing, passionate campaigner in this area and has been speaking about it ever since he came into Parliament.” The Minister then went on to assure Ben that the “wellbeing of children, both mental and physical, is a priority for this Government” and highlighted the fact that “Government are investing £230 million between 2022 and 2025 in improving community sports facilities across all four home nations.”
Last month, Mr Bradley met with the Minister for Sport, Tourism and Civil Society, the Rt Hon Stuart Andrew, to make the case for reopening school sports facilities and he also spoke in a debate on the importance of sport in schools and communities.
Commenting on this Ben Bradley MP said:
“I’m pleased that my campaign to open up sports facilities at schools for community use is continuing to be on Government’s radar. I met with the Sports Minister last month and I’ve been able to raise it with the Department for Education this month!
“This has been an issue that I’ve worked on since being elected when I found out that 45% of schools don’t allow evening and weekend use of their facilities. There are so many amazing assets right on our doorstep, from pitches to sports halls, which are unavailable most of the time.
“I want Government to be clear with all stakeholders that taxpayer funded facilities like these should be open for taxpayers use wherever possible. I want help for local partners like Councils and Schools to navigate the bureaucracy of it, and to support with initial costs because schools often can't afford it or don't have a capacity themselves. In the long term, I think a programme of managing bookings would fund itself through booking fees, and also help keep people fitter and healthier.
“It's also an opportunity for me to keep raising the issues related to Manor Sports Centre, in Mansfield, where we have exactly this issue. I'm hopeful that we can find a local resolution to that challenge, at least to some extent.”