Following on from the Mayor of London’s new Sport Strategy, Sport for All of Us, announced during December 2018, the Government has called for more partnerships with leading sporting organisations to improve school sport and ensure that all children have the opportunity to take part in competitive sport (see full story here). The benefits of regular sporting exercise to physical and mental wellbeing are widely known and this announcement represents another example of the Government’s commitment to boosting activity levels in communities, primarily focusing on school-age children in this instance.
The Education Secretary Damian Hinds met with a selection of National Governing Bodies and top sporting organisations – including the Premier League, the Rugby Football Union, England Hockey and Sport England – to ask for advice on how to ensure that school sport offers the best opportunities to children. This is in advance of the Government’s School Sport Action Plan, expected to be launched during spring 2019, which links to the existing Sporting Future Strategy and also aims to create a legacy from the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
The Action Plan will build on the first publication of data from the Active Lives Children’s survey – the Government’s new approach to measuring how children and young people engage with sport and physical activity – which found that one-third of children and young people do less than 30 minutes of activity per day (source: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-and-top-sports-bodies-to-help-children-play-more-sport). The survey also highlighted disparities in activity levels between boys and girls, as well as children of different socio-economic backgrounds and some BAME groups.
The School Sport Action Plan will consider ways to ensure that all school children have access to good quality PE and sport sessions and also opportunities to be physically active throughout the day. Furthermore, it will have a focus on health, wellbeing and character, promoting a joined-up approach to physical activity and supporting schools through the local community, as well as encouraging families to get active together. Additionally, the Government will review what further steps can be taken to support schools to train their teachers to deliver high quality provision and ensure that every child can participate in the sport and physical activity that is right for them.
Addressing the roundtable, Damian Hinds said: “Education is not just about the taking and passing of exams, important though these are. We want all young people to leave formal education as happy, confident and well-rounded individuals. It is clear that exercise and organised sport in particular can play a huge part in children’s personal resilience and emotional wellbeing … Sporting bodies are offering a huge number of programmes and we want to work together to improve the co-ordination of these so they are easier for schools and teachers to use.” (source: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-and-top-sports-bodies-to-help-children-play-more-sport)
Sports governing bodies at the meeting welcomed the cross-government commitment to getting more children involved, although there has been some scepticism levelled at the Action Plan (for example, see http://www.sportsthinktank.com/opinion-pieces/2018/10/school-sport-action-plan). Time will tell whether it is able to meet its ambitions, but it can nevertheless be commended for at least attempting to address the issue of getting children active.