Clarke puts new curbs on sale of playing fields

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The Independent Online

Stricter curbs on the sale of school playing fields were announced by the Government yesterday. In future, any school wanting to sell off land will have to spend all the money from the deal on providing new outdoor sports facilities.

Stricter curbs on the sale of school playing fields were announced by the Government yesterday. In future, any school wanting to sell off land will have to spend all the money from the deal on providing new outdoor sports facilities.

In addition, they will have to convince ministers they have exhausted all other sources of revenue to provide the facilities - and that no other school's sports activities are threatened.

The move is the start of a major drive by the Government to improve school sports. Ministers have set a target of every pupil receiving at least two hours of PE during the school day by 2006. Latest figures show only 62 per cent do.

Charles Clarke, the Secretary of State for Education, said that he would also like to see more sports activities arranged in the evenings and on Saturday mornings. Speaking at Langdon school in Newham, east London, one of the Government's new specialist sports colleges, he said ministers had "stemmed the tide" on playing field sales with legislation in 1998 ensuring every application came before them. Last year there were 17 applications - nine of which were approved.

Mr Clarke also said yesterday that he was sympathetic to the idea of reforming A-levels to make it easier for universities to spot the brightest candidates - 22.4 per cent of scripts were awarded A grades this year. However, he said he would await the report from Mike Tomlinson, the former chief inspector of schools who is heading a government inquiry into exam reform, in October.

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