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Dorrell announces sports strategy

The Government's White Paper on sport, due early in the summer, will set out a strategy for schools and clubs, and at elite levels, National Heritage Secretary Stephen Dorrell announced this week.

Speaking at the Recman leisure conference in Birmingham, Mr Dorrell said the White Paper would emphasise the importance of "putting sport back into the heart of school life. It will reassert the commitment to competitive sport as part of the physical education element of the national curriculum."

His speech coincided with the publication of a major survey by the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys for the Sports Council, which said that team sport was "alive and kicking" in lessons, but not outside school hours.

Mr Dorrell said the paper would explore ways of improving links between schools and clubs so facilities and coaches could be shared and youth sections encouraged.

The third theme of the paper concerned elite sport. "We should have exactly the same commitment to underwrite excellence in the England cricket team as in the Royal Ballet.

"Inadequate sporting provision is a form of deprivation, and it is a dangerous form because it removes one of the best means of learning how to live alongside others and contribute to society," he said.

England could learn from Australia's experience and from its commitment to allow natural sporting talent to flourish. The White Paper will examine proposals for developing institutions to provide proper facilities for those able to compete at international level.

The council's survey, carried out last summer, "provides for the first time an accurate and comprehensive measure of children's participation in sport in England" with more than 4,400 involved.

"It is an important survey as the results will feed into our national junior sports programme and into the Government's thinking on the White Paper, " said Nick Rowe, one of the council's researchers.

The survey found that mostpupils had less than two hours of PE a week with team sports predominating. Abouut 70 per cent of boys and 60 per cent of girls belonged to clubs.

Apart from football, individual sports are more popular outside school, especially for girls who tend to drop out of team games at 14. About one-third of schools run competitive sports within school while a quarter enter inter-school competitions.

* Famous footballers have been recruited by the National Literacy Trust for a poster campaign to encourage young people to read for pleasure. England coach, Terry Venables, David Platt, Graeme Le Saux and Ian Wright feature on the posters with the slogan: "Go for it! Take on a book."

Trust director, Neil McClelland, said the campaign was largely aimed at boys who are significantly less successful at reading than girls.

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