Government's School Sports Plan 'Must Be Fully Funded'

Peter Russell

July 16, 2019

Forty leading sports bodies called on the Government to ensure adequate funding for sporting activities for children and young people after ministers published plans to improve physical activity.

The move followed concerns that millions of youngsters were not meeting guidelines for 60 minutes of activity every day.

The Government pledged to give children in England greater opportunities to meet the Chief Medical Officer's goal, whether in school, after school, or during weekends and holidays.

"Our plan will help shift the dial in school sport – making lessons more fun and engaging, and vitally increasing the number of out of school clubs so that more young people get and stay active," said Mims Davies, Minister for Sport and Civil Society.

Sport 'Squeezed Out' of Curriculum

The School Sport and Activity Action Plan outlined measures to strengthen the role of sport within young people's daily routines, explained how teachers and parents can play their part, and promoted a 'joined up' approach to physical activity and mental wellbeing.

Earlier this month, Amanda Spielman, Ofsted's chief inspector of schools, urged the Government to do more to increase school sport amid concerns that physical education was being squeezed out of the curriculum because of spending cuts and a focus on exam results.

Research published last year by the Youth Sport Trust suggested that 38% of English secondary schools had cut timetabled physical education for 14 to 16 year olds since 2012.

The survey, based on responses from teachers at 487 secondary schools, found that by the time young people were aged 16 to 18, they were doing just 34 minutes a week at school.

"Squeezing subjects like PE out of the curriculum overlooks the fundamental purpose of education, which is surely about giving children the skills, knowledge, and qualities they need to succeed in life,” Ms Spielman told The Observer . "Schools that offer children a broad, balanced education, including plenty of opportunities to get active during the school day and through extracurricular activities, will be rewarded under our new inspection regime."

Millions Missing Out on Activity Targets

A survey of 5 to 16 year olds, published last December by Sport England, found that:

  • 17.5% (1.2 million) were meeting the 60 minutes or more of daily activity guidelines

  • 25.7% (1.8 million) were active for an average of 60 minutes or more a day across the week but not every day

  • 23.9% (1.7 million) were 'fairly active', averaging 30 to 59 minutes of activity each day

The Government said it particularly wanted to target the 32.9% of children and young people (2.3 million) who the Active Lives Children and Young People Survey found managed less than 30 minutes of physical activity each day.

As part of the plan, ministers said they would launch a series of regional pilots to trial innovative approaches to getting more young people active, particularly girls and children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

They would also set out a range of new measures to strengthen the role of sport within a young person's daily routine, explain how teachers and parents can play their part, and strengthen the link between physical activity and mental wellbeing.

Sports clubs and schools would be encouraged to share facilities to give young people greater access to sport and volunteering during term-time and holidays.

There would also be an emphasis on ensuring equal opportunities for boys and girls.

Funding Pilot Projects

The pilots would be joint-funded by the Department for Education (DfE), the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and administered through Sport England. They are expected to run from September this year.

The DfE said it had committed £2.5 million in 2019 to 2020 to deliver extra training for PE teachers, help schools open up their facilities at weekends and during the holidays, and expand sports volunteering programmes to give more young people the opportunity to become sports leaders and coaches.

Sport England would invest an additional £2 million to create 400 new after-school 'satellite clubs' to promote physical activity in disadvantaged areas.

The Government said the plan would build on the £1 billion it had invested since 2013 in primary schools through the PE and Sport Premium.

Sport England hailed the plan as "a great step forward". CEO Tim Hollingsworth said its own research had shown that "physically literate children are happier, more resilient, and trusting of other youngsters" and that "enjoyment is the biggest single factor that motivates children to be active".

The Youth Sport Trust also welcomed the plan. In a joint statement signed by sports bodies including the Football Association, the England and Wales Cricket Board, and the governing bodies of rugby, it said its success would "ultimately hinge on how it is resourced and delivered, and to achieve significant change it will require improved support for school sport in the government's next spending review".

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