Taking part in physical education at school is as important for a happy healthy life as literacy and maths, says a team of academics which is calling on the government to review the funding of PE in primary schools.
Academics from Sheffield Hallam University, The University of Winchester and Kingston University, are urging the government to continue the legacy of the £1.2 billion Primary PE and Sport Premium (PESS), which was introduced after the 2012 Olympics to drive participation in PE and sport for all primary school children.
They want PE to be elevated to core status within the primary curriculum and taught by qualified teachers, supported by a wider workforce.
The team put together a report for the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on a Fit and Healthy Childhood, which was published yesterday.
The report debates the impact of the PESS funding on young people since 2013 and collates evidence from across the sector to consider its future post 2018.
Co-chair of the group, Baroness Floella Benjamin, said: “We all remember the magic that united us in 2012 and the PESS Premium was a wonderful way to capture it and impact young people’s lives in a meaningful way.
“However, a significant financial investment from the government merits debate and accountability at the highest possible level and any evaluation of the funding must acknowledge where the opportunities and shortcomings of the strategy have left us.
“Ongoing and increasing concerns today about the present and future state of children’s physical and mental health and wellbeing mean that the need for the debate to be heard is now imperative.”
The report calls for a national school sport and physical activity action plan which sets out a long-term commitment to harnessing the potential of PE within the curriculum; joining up the work of relevant government departments and providing sufficient funding to give schools certainty over future planning.
It suggests schools should be held to account for the way in which they adhere to DfE PESS Premium spending guidance and the effectiveness of their spending
Explicit guidance should be given to schools and institutions educating teachers about the role of the wider workforce in primary schools and the qualifications needed to work within and outside the curriculum in a school context.
The team has also suggested the Primary PE and Sport Premium be re-launched under the name the ‘Primary Physical Education and Activity Premium’.
Sarah Williams, senior lecture and primary PE specialist course leader at Sheffield Hallam University, said: “The PESS Premium has provided schools with an opportunity to impact on the quality of physical experiences for young people. The degree to which this has been successfully achieved has varied but we now have an opportunity to reflect and plan for sustained improvement with a greater emphasis on accountability. It is vitally important that policy makers, teacher training institutions and schools continue to work together to strive for high quality physical experiences for all young people. To do this we need to secure the status of PE as a core subject, ensure teachers are adequately trained and children are offered inclusive and varied physical opportunities within and beyond the curriculum.
Senior fellow in teacher education at the University of Winchester, and one of the authors of the report, Dr Vicky Randall, said: “Through the Primary PE and Sport Premium, we have had the opportunity to impact positively on the lives of all young people. To ensure a sustainable legacy for future generations, the recommendations within this report are clear.
“Physical Education must be valued for its educational worth and taught by highly competent teachers. We welcome a review of the funding, with a greater emphasis on the accountability of public money and the unique contribution that Physical Education and physical activity have in our schools.”
Lead author of the APPG on a Fit and Healthy Childhood publications, Helen Clark, added: “If the legacy of the London Games is as important to the nation’s children as the nation’s Government tells us that it is, that Government has a duty to each and every child.
“The 2012 Olympic Games provided a beacon of hope for the future of our country. For that beacon to be eternal, the legacy of the PESS Premium must be to ensure that we all accept and, most importantly, understand that being active and educated in a physical sense is as important and ultimately life-enhancing as being literate and numerate.
“This is an opportunity to break the cycle.”