Watching Team GB excel in the Tokyo Olympics this summer filled me with pride. Seeing the medals coming in and witnessing our athletes’ incredible performances flooded back memories of London 2012, one of the great legacies of Labour in government.
Labour’s investment in children’s sport and extracurricular activities was central to our education programme – to our aspirations and ambitions for kids in this country. Because we know that for kids to thrive, they need challenge, support and opportunities, both inside and outside of the classroom. But the reality is that after more than ten years under the Tories, these opportunities have been chipped away at, bit by bit.
New research that I have published today, using the government’s own data, shows that primary-age children in England are being denied access to competitive sport, refused the opportunity to play musical instruments and fewer and fewer are going to museums, art galleries and libraries.
Seeing what they have done boils my blood. As someone who grew up on a council estate on free school meals, I know more than most how important these activities are for kids from backgrounds like mine.
Here’s what the numbers show. Competitive sport is down by 13% since 2010. There has been a 36% decrease in participation in music. And a 47% drop in drama.
Indeed, children from the poorest backgrounds are three times more likely not to take part in any extracurricular activities. These trends – which long pre-date the pandemic – are a direct result of decisions made by the Tories in Number 10, over successive administrations.
Every child matters. Whatever their background, every child should have the chance to take part in activities that open their eyes to new opportunities. Whether that’s learning to swim, playing a musical instrument or visiting a gallery or museum to discover more about the culture and history of our great country.
That’s why today I’m launching Labour’s new ambition: ten by ten. We believe that by ten years old, every child should have the opportunity to:
- Join in competitive team sports
- Play an instrument
- Learn to swim
- Take part in drama and performing arts
- Visit the seaside and the countryside
- Experience museums, galleries and heritage sites
- Take part in camping trips and overnight residentials
- Learn to ride a bike
- Take part in debating
- Use a library
And this should not be the ceiling of our ambition. Because, as we have seen from this year’s qualification results, so much damage has been done to our education system under the Tories. Inside and outside of the classroom, they’re pulling up the ladder.
Together with Labour’s shadow DCMS and education teams, I will be traveling the country in the weeks and months ahead to promote the many brilliant initiatives and opportunities that are being delivered by Labour in local government, and by amazing organisations like Girlguiding, Scouts and uniformed cadets.
We only get one childhood, and over the last ten years of Conservative government too many children have been denied experiences that set them up well for learning and for life.
It’s Labour’s ambition that all children have the opportunity to take part in these ten life-enhancing activities by the time they’re ten. And we offer to the Conservative government a plan to make it happen. If they won’t step up for the nation’s children, the next Labour government will.