1 Baroness Sater debates involving the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities

International Women’s Day

Baroness Sater Excerpts
Friday 10th March 2023

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Sater Portrait Baroness Sater (Con)
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I am absolutely delighted to follow my noble friend Lady Lampard, whom I think we all agree has made an exceptional and outstanding maiden speech. I cannot think of many who are more qualified to come to this House. She had a distinguished career as a practising barrister, and I think we can all concur with her story about juggling a family and having a very active business life, with her record with the NHS and with her continued passion and commitment to keeping people safe from the harms of gambling, as chair of the GambleAware charity, which, as we all know, is such an important subject today. She really does bring so much relevant and extensive experience. I also note that she has some hands-on knowledge of farming and forestry, which I am sure we will hear more about. We will greatly benefit from her knowledge and expertise; her experiences will add huge value to and be essential in this House. I am sure we all look forward to hearing more from her in the future and I wish her all the very best.

Celebrating International Women’s Day is a great opportunity to highlight the important role sport and physical activity can play in improving women’s and girls’ physical and mental health and well-being. While the amazing successes of the Lionesses and many more, and the increased coverage of women’s sports on TV and in the media, is a huge step forward, there remains much more work to be done to get more women and girls physically active. So much of keeping our children fit and healthy starts in childhood and at school. The better physical and mental health that follows from being more active can have huge positive benefits, not only for girls in school but into their adult life. So many life skills are drawn from these activities—I gained many from my sporting career—including confidence, resilience and social skills.

At present, the Chief Medical Officer recommends that children have 60 minutes of daily physical activity, 30 minutes of which is expected to take place during the school day. However, over 50% of girls are still not meeting the Chief Medical Officer’s daily exercise guidelines, and 33% are more likely to experience poor mental health now than before Covid-19. The major announcement on International Women’s Day confirming £600 million of funding over the next two academic years for the PE and sport premium is extremely welcome. Schools will now be asked to offer a minimum of two hours’ PE time and set new standards for equal access to sport, making it clear that girls and boys should be offered the same sports during PE and extracurricular time in school.

So, much progress is being made. We hope this will boost equal opportunity in PE and school sports both inside and outside the classroom. Notwithstanding that, we should give PE the status it deserves and by doing so deliver on the recommendation of the Association for Physical Education in a report I was pleased to be involved in, calling for PE to become a core subject in schools. I recognise that this will not be a panacea, but it will be another positive step forward in helping make the next generation healthier and happier. We all know people who dreaded school sports lessons, especially girls, and we are all aware of many of the barriers that prevented them participating, so the introduction of a new digital resource, Studio You, launched by the Government and Sport England, helping teachers engage less active teenage girls in their PE lessons, will make it easier for them to deliver a broader range of options such as dance, Pilates, fitness and yoga. Encouraging more girls to engage in physical activity is very welcome.

Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign, established in 2015, worked to tackle the gender gap in activity levels by supporting more women to be active. Since its launch, it has inspired 4 million women to take action. This should be celebrated, but again, there is much more to do. As highlighted in Sport England’s new campaign, This Girl Can With You, 2.4 million fewer women enjoy sport and activity than men. We hope this new campaign will close that gap.

Finally, let us not forget the important role of our female coaches. They can be great role models and mentors, with the ability to unlock so much potential and help change lives. Female coaches tend to understand and handle better the needs of young girls, and a diverse coaching staff is essential to facilitate equal opportunity. We welcome help from charities such as UK Coaching, a charity for sports and physical activity coaches which recently released a free digital resource to encourage and support females into coaching in order to help break down those barriers. This will inspire more women and girls to give coaching a go. To quote a well-known coach with two successful children—it is not hard to guess who—Judy Murray once said:

“Children learn by example. They are inspired by what they see.”

In recent years we have all been inspired by the great successes of our sportswomen, so let us build on this and get more women active.