Time to put physical education at the heart of school life

Posted: Mon, 21 Jun 2021 09:00

The Association for Physical Education (afPE) has today launched a report from its Education Taskforce which issues a clear call to government to put physical education at the heart of school life, with chair and former Minister for Children, Edward Timpson CBE MP, saying:

"afPE is delighted that the Primary PE and sports premium—worth £320 million a year—has been confirmed for the academic year 2021/2022."

"As we argue in our report, a longer-term commitment to this funding—through to the next general election—alongside stronger accountability measures governing how the money is spent, as well as its impact, would better enable schools to plan for and deliver the best outcomes we know high quality PE can achieve for children."

This was supported by rugby superstar Jason Robinson OBE, adding: "Physical education was a vital part of my life growing up and gave me so much - playing an instrumental role in the success I went on to achieve in my career. PE has a unique power to inspire, but too often it isn't taken seriously enough. The time for change has come and for PE to become a core subject in every school, rightly put alongside other key subjects to ensure that the next generation of our young people are given better opportunities"

The pandemic has taken a huge toll on our children and young people. Schools and playgrounds were closed to many of them for long periods, and with this went the opportunity for many of them to experience physical education and to be active.

The simple truth is that our children and young people are nowhere near active enough. Whilst it's true that COVID has had an impact, barely 50 per cent of children were doing enough to stay healthy before the pandemic.

This experience and lifestyle for our young people has to change. PE is the only statutory entitlement for all children and young people to be active, and is the foundation stone in achieving an active, healthy life, but still is not treated with the respect and priority that it deserves.

There is widespread support from teachers, politicians, sport stars, parents and—most importantly—young people themselves for more PE, and for it to be a more ambitious curriculum.

The key solution lies in the Taskforce's central recommendation—establishing PE as a core subject—with the right initial teacher training, professional development, funding, and rigour, backed by both inspection and relevant monitoring and evaluation.

This can act as a springboard to better pupil engagement with physical activity and sport so that they become habits for life for many more children growing up in our country.

Reacting to the launch of the report, Tracey Crouch, MP and former Sports Minister, commented: "From my experience as Sports Minister, I know how vital well-delivered PE is to our schools. I was privileged to see so much good practice, but making the case for PE can be difficult—particularly when it's in competition with other subjects. A change to core status, as this report advocates, would be a huge step forward and a very welcome development."

Professor Lorraine Cale, leading academic in physical education and sport from Loughborough University, added: "The launch of the afPE taskforce is really exciting, welcomed and timely news. Now more than ever does physical education need to be a core subject within the National Curriculum - and the work of the taskforce will be instrumental in ensuring the subject is given the prominence it deserves and needs within the curriculum of all schools moving forwards. The difference this could make to young people's lives cannot be underestimated. For example, we know that high quality physical education can stimulate significant health and educational benefits for all children, lead to their improved physical, mental and personal well-being, the development of essential life skills, as well as contribute to their wider learning. In light of these (and other) benefits, the taskforce will make key evidenced-based policy and practical recommendations which I'm sure will really positively shape the future and experiences of physical education for generations to come."

Olympic gymnast Beth Tweddle, a major supporter of high-quality PE in schools, also praised the report, saying: "I absolutely loved doing PE in school and one thing I learnt throughout doing sport at school and throughout my career in gymnastics is that it teaches you more than just the sport that you are learning. You can take away so many other skills such as teamwork, friendship, resilience and perseverance that are life skills. I have been able to utilise these when moving into my career in business."

Sue Wilkinson MBE, Chief Executive Officer of afPE, concluded:

"We are immensely proud of our PE workforce. We have a vocation full of self-improvers who are just desperate to help children and young people from every background lead healthy, positive, outgoing lives, and improve their grades across the board. This small but significant change to make PE a core subject—and to raise its status within our schools—would make all the difference."

George Cull, Head of Development at North Yorkshire Sport added:

"Physical Education is vitally important to help instil an enjoyment in movement and activity. It is essential that the subject is able to do this in an inclusive way that engages every pupil, regardless of their ability. We also recognise the strong role that PE can have in supporting so many other parts of the curriculum and learning, developing our citizens of the future."

The full report can be viewed by clicking here

Tags: Funding, School Sport, Workforce, physical education