The route to improving sport can be unclear and a concern for schools. But with the help of the School Sport Premium, the role of sport is steadily improving and the routes to change are becoming wider.
Since 2013, the Primary PE and School Sport Premium has played an important role in making school sport better. Worth £150 per student, the premium collectively sees £150 million annually invested in schools across England, improving not only the quality of PE and school sport but also broadening the range of sports on offer.
As no two schools are the same, the core strength of the Premium is that head teachers decide how the money is spent, based on their individual needs. Some schools choose to extend after-school opportunities or buy new equipment and invest in facilities. Some are even joining forces: extending local and regional sports competitions, sharing sports coaches and introducing both traditional and new sports to their pupils, with sports like football and cricket now sitting alongside Zumba, gymnastics and rock climbing.
Sturton CofE Primary School in north Nottinghamshire chose to invest part of its funding to create a 5k race open to the whole community. This initiative led to the formation of a running club which now includes more than 30 per cent of the school’s pupils. The event has become a fixture in the community calendar, with race fees in subsequent years being reinvested in creating more sports facilities for the school.
Head teacher Mark Elliott said: “PE and sport gives children the opportunity to excel in lots of different ways, and I think if we are able to offer them a variety of different opportunities they surprise themselves and they surprise us, and that can lead to a lifelong love of exercise and sport.”
Meanwhile in St Matthews CofE Primary School in Smethwick, West Midlands, a pupil survey showed a great appetite for street dance among both boys and girls. Premium funding was used to employ a specialist dance coach initially for a group of children specifically interested, but the activity has now become so popular that it’s available throughout the school, with adapted teaching for those with special educational needs. The school hosts PE coffee mornings for parents to learn more about how they can help their children’s fitness, whilst a healthy lunch habits campaign was recently launched in the school, to dovetail with the school’s renewed health focus.
It’s little wonder that a new Department for Education (DfE) report finds that a staggering 95 per cent of schools said that the Premium has had a positive impact on the physical fitness of students, as well as improving the skills and behaviour of pupils. Nearly 90 per cent also found that the quality of PE teaching has increased since the Premium was introduced. Better yet, amongst those schools doing less than the recommended level of two hours of PE per week, the curriculum time devoted to the subject has increased by over 40 per cent since the Premium was introduced.
Spending Premium wisely
Ensuring children become active and stay active is a goal held by many agencies in the sport sector, that’s why Sport England has joined up with the Youth Sport Trust, the DfE, Sports Coach UK, the association for Physical Education, County Sports Partnership Network, and UKactive Kids, to help schools make the right choices when spending their Premium. Together, they have created a one-stop-shop online toolkit, offering handy advice to head teachers, PE leaders, coaches and coach deployers. When done correctly, school sport can help children, whatever their ability, develop a real and long-lasting love of sport and develop a habit of being active. Conversely a bad experience can put children off, making it challenging for them to re-engage later in life. Published studies also show the positive effects of sport on education include improved attainment, with memory, attention and concentration all improving with more activity. Lower absenteeism and drop-out rates are also recorded for active pupils, and increased progression to higher education. For instance, young people’s participation in sport improves their numeracy scores by eight per cent on average above non-participants.
Moreover, a 2014 Public Health England report found that the amount of moderate to vigorous physical activity students engaged with at 11 years of age had an effect on academic performance across English, maths and science, including final GCSE exam results, with active students found to achieve up to 20 per cent higher results than non‑active students. Other studies have found that sport programmes aimed at youths at risk of criminal behaviour can enhance self-esteem and reduce reoffending.
Sport on the curriculum
While the benefits of being active are clear, often the route to improving sport isn’t. A 2011 report before the Premium was introduced found that only 20 per cent of teachers rated PE in their top three subjects, while 50 per cent listed it as their worst. Thus in order for the Premium to deliver real and lasting results, it’s important that a focus is placed on sustainability, whereby the addition of new coaches do not displace teachers, but complement them, ensuring that teachers feel confident and capable in any new initiative.
Head teacher Mark Elliott says: “The role of the coach is to provide support and expertise for teachers it is not to replace them in the classroom, that approach is neither sustainable nor healthy in the longer term. To develop PE and sport in your school fundamentally that comes down to the teacher delivering the PE curriculum.”
Funding must be used to improve existing provision: not simply maintaining the status quo, but driving up quality and encouraging more children to take part. Clearly when using the Premium correctly it can yield fantastic results, but it’s important that in the first instance a school reviews its current sport facilities before deciding on where to invest the Premium.
The coach approach
Coaches should only be employed through the Premium funding when a need has been identified by the school’s PE and school sport review. Choosing the right coach can be tricky, the School Premium online tool offers help on how to recruit coaches, and what to look for. There are also some excellent examples of schools using the premium well: for example, using the funding to work with specialist sports coaches, making sure that the coach works alongside existing teachers, increasing their specialist knowledge, skills and confidence and ensuring that the impact lasts long after the coach has left. It is important to realise the long-term ambition and professional development which will benefit future year groups as well as current pupils.
Top 10 considerations
1. Who is reviewing the school’s PE provision and what areas for development have they identified?
2. Has the school got a designated subject leader for PE? What is their role in deciding how the Premium should be spent?
3. What specific outcomes does the school aim to achieve with the primary PE and Sport Premium?
4. How is the Premium being used to enhance, rather than maintain, existing provision?
5. How will these improvements be sustainable in the long term? What will the impact of the changes that the school is making now be on pupils arriving at the school in five to 10 years’ time?
6. Does the school website include a breakdown of how the Premium is being spent and a report on its impact on pupils?
7. Have the new grant conditions and guidance been considered when planning how to spend the funding?
8. Have staff accessed resources to support effective use of the primary PE and sport premium?
9. Where external specialist coaches are being used in curriculum time, are they working alongside class teachers to improve their skills – securing long-term impact?
10. Where external providers are being used either in PE lessons or extra-curricular activities, how is the school assessing the quality and impact of their delivery?