This week as Parliament returns, the cost of living, serious delays in the NHS and now the unacceptable anti-strike legislation being voted on next week have been just some of the issues on the agenda. A responsible government should solve disputes through negotiation and dialogue. A failure to do so has led to the worst strikes in decades. Instead of resolving them, the government is trying to force through anti-worker legislation to fire nurses and teachers. I’m proud that Labour has committed to repealing this legislation if it passes next week.
For families and businesses, it continues to be a really difficult time. That’s why over the New Year, I launched a Cost of Living Support Booklet which has sources of advice for local residents. It covers finances, benefits, food, mental health, support at work and help available from Hounslow Council, support organisations and the government. You can download a copy from my website and it will be available in libraries and some supermarkets. If you are finding it difficult to make ends meet or feed your family, please know that you can reach out for some support.
As schools also return, this week I was pleased to arrange a meeting in Parliament with Hounslow’s Alan Watkinson OBE – Sir Mo Farah’s former PE teacher – and Robin Walker MP, the Chair of the Education Select Committee, ahead of a debate on school and community sport. Mo trained at the same athletics track in Feltham as I did when I grew up. Alan has a lifetime of experience in school sport and runs Sport Impact, working with 66 primary schools, 20 secondary schools and 80,000 children in Hounslow. He also co-founded the Schools Active Movement which is backed by the national Youth Sports Trust.
It’s very worrying that across the country, 27% of adults and nearly a third of children and young people are currently ‘inactive’. Statistics show that 36,000 hours of PE has been lost from the school curriculum over the last decade. The problem is also gendered, with girls being less active than boys from the age of five.
It’s why I have called for the government to urgently protect and value the role of the National Network of School Games Organisers, and to confirm with schools urgently the funding for the next school year, so that schools and school sport partnerships like Sport Impact can plan ahead and also recruit and retain the staffing needed. People who are highly trained are leaving the profession because of the uncertainty that this lack of clarity is causing.
I’m proud of our community sports and our schools and PE teachers for all they do to support the physical and mental wellbeing of children and adults alike, from our grassroots football teams, martial arts, dance clubs, gyms and so much more. We have had a fantastic year for British sport, as we have united behind our national sports players at Wimbledon, the Women’s Euros, the Commonwealth Games, the Rugby League World Cup and men’s football World Cup.
But we should remember. These moments aren’t just about the sporting achievements of our athletes, but a chance to win investment, provide jobs, forge partnerships and to project the great traditions, sport and culture Britain is known for around the world. These moments are created by encouraging children and young people to explore a range of sports from a young age, supported by a broad school curriculum which engages, provides for and inspires all our young people.