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afPE report says it’s time to put physical education at the heart of school life

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Posted 21st June 2021

The Association for Physical Education (afPE) has today launched a report from its Education Taskforce which issues a clear call to government to put physical education at the heart of school life.

The pandemic has taken a huge toll on our children and young people. Schools and playgrounds were closed to many of them for long periods, and with this went the opportunity for many of them to experience physical education and to be active.

The simple truth is that our children and young people are nowhere near active enough. Whilst it’s true that COVID has had an impact, barely 50 per cent of children were doing enough to stay healthy before the pandemic.

This experience and lifestyle for our young people has to change. PE is the only statutory entitlement for all children and young people to be active, and is the foundation stone in achieving an active, healthy life, but still is not treated with the respect and priority that it deserves.

There is widespread support from teachers, politicians, sport stars, parents and—most importantly—young people themselves for more PE, and for it to be a more ambitious curriculum.

The key solution lies in the Taskforce’s central recommendation—establishing PE as a core subject—with the right initial teacher training, professional development, funding, and rigour, backed by both inspection and relevant monitoring and evaluation.

This can act as a springboard to better pupil engagement with physical activity and sport so that they become habits for life for many more children growing up in our country.

Yorkshire Sport Foundation Director of Development Dan Wilson welcomed the findings in the report and said: “This report confirms the importance of Physical Education in schools. We have seen first-hand how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected young people across South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire, especially the negative effects on physical and emotional wellbeing.”

“The afPE Taskforce report shows how elevating PE to a core subject can help remedy the effects of the pandemic by ensuring teachers are well trained in teaching the subject and linking PE, sport and physical activity to the health and wellbeing of children.

“Through our ground-breaking work alongside the University of Bradford on the Creating Active Schools Framework, we are starting to see improvements made in all these areas. We hope that the recommendations in this report are understood and supported across the sector and in Government.”

afPE chair and former Minister for Children, Edward Timpson CBE MP, saying: “afPE is delighted that the Primary PE and sports premium—worth £320 million a year—has been confirmed for the academic year 2021/2022.”

“As we argue in our report, a longer-term commitment to this funding—through to the next general election—alongside stronger accountability measures governing how the money is spent, as well as its impact, would better enable schools to plan for and deliver the best outcomes we know high quality PE can achieve for children.”

This was supported by rugby superstar Jason Robinson OBE, adding: “Physical education was a vital part of my life growing up and gave me so much – playing an instrumental role in the success I went on to achieve in my career. PE has a unique power to inspire, but too often it isn’t taken seriously enough. The time for change has come and for PE to become a core subject in every school, rightly put alongside other key subjects to ensure that the next generation of our young people are given better opportunities.”

Reacting to the launch of the report, Tracey Crouch, MP and former Sports Minister, commented: “From my experience as Sports Minister, I know how vital well-delivered PE is to our schools. I was privileged to see so much good practice, but making the case for PE can be difficult—particularly when it’s in competition with other subjects. A change to core status, as this report advocates, would be a huge step forward and a very welcome development.”

Sue Wilkinson MBE, Chief Executive Officer of afPE, concluded: “We are immensely proud of our PE workforce. We have a vocation full of self-improvers who are just desperate to help children and young people from every background lead healthy, positive, outgoing lives, and improve their grades across the board. This small but significant change to make PE a core subject—and to raise its status within our schools—would make all the difference.”

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