Cautious welcome from University of Winchester physical education expert for new School Sport and Activity Action Plan

1 Aug 2019

The Government's long-awaited new School Sport and Activity Action Plan has adopted two of the key recommendations made in a Parliamentary report on children's physical education, which was jointly sponsored by the Universities of Winchester, Sheffield Hallam and Kingston.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on A Fit and Healthy Childhood's report 'The Primary PE and Sport Premium', was co-authored by Dr Vicky Randall, Senior Fellow in the Institute of Education at the University of Winchester, and was published in February 2019.

The APPG report included recommendations that the Government develop a cross-departmental strategy and include 'Activity' in the report title: both recommendations have shaped the final report published by the Department for Education, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Department of Health and Social Care. The report has since been included as evidence in the official House of Commons Library policy briefing document on 'Physical Education, Physical Activity and Sport in School'.

Commenting on the School Sport and Activity Action Plan, Dr Randall pointed to the distinct nature of physical education, sport and physical activity in childhood. She welcomed the Plan - in particular, the clearly-stated aim to address children's health through a cross-departmental approach - but cautioned against the use of language that reduces movement to a series of competitive sporting experiences.

"The lack of clarity about 'Physical Education' is worrying - as is the choice of examples used to illustrate a modern and inclusive curriculum," Dr Randall said.

"Over the coming months, it is crucial that initial teacher education and schools are able to work alongside Government to shape and influence this strategy and ways in which the vision can now be implemented."

APPG Chair, Steve McCabe MP, said: "Speaking as Chair of an APPG that has produced no less than four reports on children's physical activity, we have some serious reservations.

"If a new Prime Minister intends to investigate so-called 'Sin Taxes' and promote physical activity, we need to know exactly where the money will be coming from. It must be done in a way that will be positive for our young people and not associated with mixed messaging about 'control of academic attainment' and 'classroom behaviour.

"We agree very strongly that PE teaching must be made fit for twenty-first century children but what will this mean and what does the Government consider a 'modern PE lesson' to be?"

APPG lead author, Helen Clark, added: "It's two cheers from us, but children deserve more from the Government than this 'one small step'. Above all, movement - or sport and physical activity - is simply not about 'controlling' children's behaviour. It is a positive and life-affirming entitlement for all children in its many wonderful ways.

"Unfortunately PE has become subservient to Physical Activity and Sport in this Plan. We must be given greater clarity about what is actually meant by 'Physical Education' and the Government needs to understand that its work on this important policy matter should not end with the publication of a report."

The report 'The Primary PE and Sport Premium' is available to download here: The_primary_PE_and_sport_premium_report_2019.pdf.

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