A boost for sport and PE

The government has confirmed a continuation of the PE and Sport Premium, advised that schools should offer two hours of PE time a week, and set out new standards for equal access to sports for boys and girls. We examine the measures announced to boost school sport and PE provision

The government has released new measures and funding support to boost school sport and PE. This includes advising that at least two hours of PE is done per week, confirming a continuation of the Primary PE and Sport Premium funding, and providing standards which ensure equal access to sport for boys and girls.
The government also announced £22 million for two more years of the School Games Organisers Network, and a further £57 million to keep school sports facilities open outside the normal school day.

PE and Sport Premium

The PE and Sport Premium will continue for the next two academic years, with funding of £600 million.
The PE and Sport Premium is designed to help children get an active start in life by improving the quality of PE and sports in primary schools. Headteachers can choose how best to spend this funding including on teacher training, offering more opportunities for pupils to take part in competition and widening the range of sports for both boys and girls including football, tennis, cricket and hockey.
There will also be a new digital tool for PE and Sport Premium, to support schools in using the funding to the best advantage of their pupils, and allow the government to understand where further guidance is needed.
Schools will receive updated guidance this summer setting out how to use the funding to the best advantage of their pupils.
Youth Sport Trust CEO Ali Oliver MBE, said: “The confirmation of this funding is absolutely vital to the growth and development of a vibrant school sport culture in schools which, in turn, is fundamentally important to children’s health and wellbeing. Schools in England will be relieved they now have the certainty needed to plan PE, sport and physical activity provision for the next two academic years.”
Recent research conducted by the Youth Sport Trust highlighted the potential impact should the funding not have been confirmed. This included an estimated increase in children leaving school unable to swim, and three in four schools (73 per cent) unable to maintain their current physical activity and after-school sport offer, at a time when fewer than half of all young people in England meet the minimum recommended activity level of 60 minutes a day.

Equal access to sport

The government is setting out new standards for equal access to sports, making it clear that girls and boys should be offered the same sports during PE and extracurricular time in schools.
The package will help provide equal opportunities in school sport, following from a promise made by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Education Secretary Gillian Keegan to the Women’s Euro 22 winners, the Lionesses.

This also follows on from the success of the Football Association’s (FA) #LetGirlsPlay campaign which is working to change perceptions and make sure girls get the chance to play football within the school curriculum, as well as at breaktime, after school and at local clubs. The campaign was launched by the Lionesses squad and the FA after the England Women’s team’s success at the Euro 22 tournament last year.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “Last year the Lionesses’ victory changed the game. Young girls know when they take to the pitch that football is for them and, thanks to the Lionesses, they too could be a part of the next generation to bring it home for their country.
“We want schools to build on this legacy and give every girl the opportunity to do the same sports as boys, as well as provide a minimum of two hours of PE. This means every child can benefit from regular exercise and we are proud to provide them with the support needed to do so.”

Recognising equal opportunities

Schools that successfully deliver equal opportunities for girls and boys will be rewarded through the School Games Mark, which will assess parity of provision in PE and extracurricular sport.
Delivered by the Youth Sport Trust, the kite mark recognises schools that create positive sporting experiences across all sports for young people, supporting them to be active for 60 minutes a day. It will now be expanded to reward parity of provision for girls.
Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan, said: “Every child – girl or boy - should have access to high quality sport and activities. Not only are these opportunities great for both physical and mental health – but also for all those other skills young people will need throughout their life like teamwork and communication.”
England women’s captain, Leah Williamson, said: “The success of the summer has inspired so many young girls to pursue their passion for football.
“We see it as our responsibility to open the doors for them to do so and this announcement makes that possible.
“This is the legacy that we want to live much longer than us as a team. On behalf of all the Lionesses players, we’d like to thank our teammate Lotte Wubben-Moy as a driving force behind this transformational change.
“We couldn’t be prouder to stand alongside her and we all look forward to seeing the impact this legacy creates.”
The FA’s chief executive, Mark Bullingham, said: “The magic of last summer’s Euros victory can now live on with a legacy that has the ability to change the future of women’s football and positively impact society.
“Equal access for girls is one of The FA’s strategic ambitions and for such progress to be made is a very proud day. We’re all extremely grateful to the players for using their voice to deliver change and would like to place on record our thanks to Government for the positive measures.”

Ofsted involvement
Ofsted will be publishing a report into PE in the coming months, which will inform future inspections and set out what they believe is possible in terms of offering high quality PE and equal access to sports.
Ofsted will also be asked to include school PE when it looks at enrichment during inspections and will report when there are issues with equal access.
Rishi Sunak made a pledge during the first 2022 Conservative leadership campaign to ask Ofsted to assess PE in every school.
Commenting on making access to school sport equal for boys and girls, Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said: “I will do all I can to help address inequality in sport and this announcement is a huge boost that will help give girls greater opportunities in schools across England. The Lionesses have undoubtedly inspired the next generation and it is vital that we make sure we have the structures in place at schools and the grassroots to capitalise on that and drive up participation for all the positive life benefits it brings.
“Having made £1 billion available to ensure the survival of the sport and leisure  sector during the pandemic, we are now setting a new standard for ensuring children and young people have the opportunity to enjoy healthy and active lives both inside and outside of school.”

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said: “Funding PE in schools can help inspire the next generation to build on the international sporting successes of the Lionesses at the Euros, the Red Roses and the England Women’s Cricket Team.

“We’re supporting schools to improve the quality of their PE provision including equal access to sports. This will help to level up opportunities for girls across the country so they can play sports such as football and cricket, alongside after school activities targeted at girls and other disadvantaged children.

“We want young people to develop healthy habits whilst having fun at the same time, regardless of gender or background.”

Two hours curriculum PE time

Schools are also being asked to offer a minimum of two hours curriculum PE time, up from the current 90 minutes. The government says it will provide support to schools on how to do this through the upcoming refresh of the School Sport Action Plan.
However, schools could find it hard to find time for more curriculum PE time due to crammed timetables. Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders said that while the measures to boost PE are welcome, there needs to be a “reality check”. He said “School timetables are crammed with a multitude of expectations from the government in all sorts of areas and it is a constant battle to find the time for everything.
“There is a real need for a comprehensive curriculum review that slims down expectations and gives the right weighting to all these competing demands. In addition, school funding is under huge pressure making it much more difficult to put on extracurricular activities such as sports clubs.
“We need a proper strategy and resources rather than piecemeal announcements and new targets.”

School Games Organiser network
The Government is also providing security for the School Games Organisers (SGO) network, with the commitment of £22 million funding until the end of the summer term 2025. The programme delivers on the Government’s ambition to ensure that all children and young people, no matter their background, can be active.
Annually the 450 strong SGO workforce supports 2.2m participation opportunities for children including 28,000 competitive school sport events.
Youth Sport Trust CEO Ali Oliver said: “We remain concerned about the capacity of the locally embedded School Games Organisers to meet school needs and young people’s ambitions. On average each organiser is tasked with supporting 53 schools; based on the current funding formula this is unrealistic in the two to three days a week they are given.”

Opening school facilities

Up to £57 million in funding will be used to allow selected schools around England to keep their sport facilities open for longer for after-school activities, especially targeted at girls, disadvantaged children and those with special educational needs.
This work will be led by Active Partnerships who are leading a consortium, which includes Youth Sport Trust, ukactive and StreetGames, and will benefit up to 1,350 schools across.
Andy Taylor, chief executive for Active Partnerships National Team said: “We are delighted that schools across England will receive a share of this new three-year investment to help them open up their sporting facilities outside of the normal school day.
“Working with our consortia partners StreetGames, ukactive and the Youth Sport Trust, our network of 43 Active Partnerships will support schools to develop and deliver their plans, working together to identify those local communities facing the greatest inequalities and help give them access to more varied opportunities to be physically active.
“We aim to engage with 1,350 schools throughout the funding programme.”