Physical education should be valued for its educational worth, argues new report on the funding of physical education in primary schools

18 Feb 2019

A new report, sponsored by the Universities of Winchester, Kingston and Sheffield Hallam, is calling for the legacy of the Primary PE and Sport Premium Government grant to break a 'cycle of decline' so that being active and educated in a physical sense is as important and ultimately life-enhancing for children as being able to read or do maths.

'The Primary PE and Sport Premium' is published by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on A Fit and Healthy Childhood.

PESS Premium funding was introduced after the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games. Since then, primary schools in England have received over £1.2 billion to drive long-lasting, positive change in PE and sport opportunities for all primary school children. The APPG report debates the impact of the funding on young people since 2013 and collates evidence from across the sector to consider its future post 2018.

Co Chair of the APPG on a Fit and Healthy Childhood, 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."

Critical appraisal of the PESS Premium funding has so far been limited and the APPG's report aims to kick-start a necessary process, bringing together evidence from across the sector and considering what a future for the PESS Premium might be.

Key recommendations call for:

  • The Primary PE and Sport Premium to be re-launched under the name of the 'Primary Physical Education and Activity Premium'
  • PE to be elevated to Core status within the curriculum
  • A sustainable School Sport and Physical Activity Action Plan, setting 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 investment and planning
  • Schools to be held to account for the way in which they adhere to DfE PESS Premium spending guidance and the effectiveness of their spend
  • Qualified teachers to become core deliverers of primary PE, supported ( but not replaced) by a wider workforce
  • Explicit guidance to be given to schools and Initial Teacher Education (ITE) providers on the role of the wider workforce in primary schools and the identification of qualification level needed to work within and outside the curriculum in a school context (i.e. play providers, sports coaches, teachers, leisure and fitness instructors and health professionals)
  • Government Guidance should state that Early Years age groups qualify for PESS Premium funding.

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."

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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