Originally published May 17, 2019 in The Telegraph.
By Jeremy Wilson
Primary schools have been urged to maximise a collective £320 million opportunity to improve the provision of physical education and sport amid significant concerns that funding is not being universally used to create a long-term legacy.
Both the Youth Sports Trust and the Association for Physical Education welcomed recent communication from policy officials at the Department for Education that the Primary PE and Sport Premium will continue at its current doubled rate for the 2019/20 academic year, but there are also calls for the opportunity not to be wasted.
Schools must ring-fence the money for “additional and sustainable” support but several teachers have anonymously told The Telegraph that it is not vigorously checked and must be targeted for improvements that will provide an ongoing legacy even if the funding is subsequently reduced.
Concerns were also reflected in a report last year by Dr Jo Harris on behalf of the Physical Education Expert Group at Loughborough University. She wrote that the “well intended” funding has “seemingly had the unfortunate unintended consequence of virtually ‘handing over’ the subject to non-qualified teachers” by out-sourcing provision to sports coaches and instructors. “The quality of learning in physical education is seriously compromised by this and there is a somewhat hit and miss postcode lottery approach,” she wrote. Alison Oliver, the chief executive of the Youth Sports Trust, wants there to be a focus on the professional development of primary school teachers.
“This funding brings with it a huge amount of potential to improve children’s formative experiences of PE at primary school but it will be vital that it is spent in the right way,” she said. “We want to see every primary school teacher professionally supported to develop young people’s physical literacy with the same skill and passion as language literacy and numeracy.
“We look forward to seeing a more long-term, joined up approach which reverses cuts to PE and maximises the potential of sport and play to improve children’s wellbeing and life chances.”
The Department for Education currently samples a selection of schools in each local authority to check their reports on how they have used a premium which is individually worth up to £27,510.
“Schools are required to report their PE and Sport Premium spending plans online – publishing the amount they have received, how it has been spent, what impact it is having and how the spending will be sustainable in the future,” said a spokesperson. They also said that the imminent School Sport Action Plan would underline “our commitment to high-quality, protected PE and sport sessions for all pupils”.
The Telegraph launched the ‘Girls, Inspired’ campaign earlier this year to close the gender gap in school sports amid alarming research which shows that girls are disproportionately affected by a national crisis of inactivity.
The campaign, which has the backing of numerous influential sports bodies, including Fifa, Sport England and UK Sport, specifically calls on the government to enshrine equality of opportunity to sport in its new School Sport Action Plan; to issue new guidelines, enforced by Ofsted, that put the benefits of physical education on a par with core subjects and for schools to empower girls by offering wider choice through ‘Girls Active’ and ‘This Girl Can’ schemes.