The Youth Sport Trust’s chief executive Ali Oliver believes the ‘sugar tax’ offers a once in a lifetime chance to transform PE – but warns it must be used wisely
This generation is facing a health crisis as childhood obesity levels soar and children experience the lowest levels of physical, social and emotional wellbeing on record.
More money is being allocated to primary schools to help cut childhood obesity through the ‘sugar tax’, but chief executive of the Youth Sport Trust has warned ‘if we do not support schools to spend the funding in the right way, it will be a wasted opportunity’.
The Youth Sport Trust (YST), the leading children’s charity on a mission to pioneer new ways of using sport to improve children’s wellbeing and give them a brighter future, works with almost 20,000 schools across the UK and has been supporting many primary schools to help ensure the funding boost has the maximum long-term impact.
Ali Oliver, chief executive of the Youth Sport Trust, said: “By 2020, we want to see every primary school teacher professionally developed to help teach physical literacy with the same skill and passion as language literacy and numeracy. We know that for all the training a primary school teacher receives, they often get very little guidance on how to educate their pupils in and through movement, exercise and physical activity.
“Children’s first formative experiences of PE at primary school has an impact which can last a lifetime. Get it right and we will transform the life chances of a generation. Get it wrong and too many children will continue to miss out on the benefits that physical activity brings to their health, happiness and wellbeing.
“There is so much potential for what schools can achieve with this extra funding – it presents the best chance we have in a generation to really transform PE and harness its potential to improve children’s wellbeing.”
The charity has set out five goals to improve children’s formative experiences of PE and school sport for a generation.
At the heart of these bold ambitions is better support for primary teachers who currently receive an average of just six hours of initial teacher training in physical education. Using the Primary PE and School Sport Premium, the YST believes it is possible to transform schools through supporting every classroom teacher with further training to help children develop physical literacy, and helping to close the gender and disability gaps which exist in participation in physical education and sport.
The funding could also help transform school sport by introducing national standards for coaching children in sport and for every school to offer two hours per week of physical education with a holistic focus on physical and emotional development. Finally, the YST would like to see active school plans in place for 30 active minutes per day for every child through active travel, playgrounds and classrooms.
The average state-funded primary school now has 281 pupils on its role according to the Department of Education’s latest ‘Schools, pupils and their characteristics report’ – this means the average school could see more than £18,750 extra funding to help make PE fit for the 21st century, so it must be used wisely.
Birmingham school, Paget Primary, is a YST member school which has been supported to transform its approach to PE and use the funding to create a legacy.
The school has launched a ‘Sports Crew’ to engage more children in sport and physical activity and encourage them to be role models for younger children in the school. It is also boosting extracurricular opportunities for its children to get active and enjoy school sport with clubs before school, during lunchtimes and after school.
Before it received the funding, school attendance was below national average and there were key children who were displaying challenging behaviours and were becoming disengaged from learning. Now, the school is using the vehicle of sport to change attitudes and behaviours of staff, parents and children.
Its lunchtime staff have received training in co-ordinating effective play in each of the three key stages with further training for teaching staff also. As a result of staff training, teachers and teaching assistants are much more confident in delivering higher quality PE lessons.
The school also said it had introduced a whole school sports week as opposed to the traditional sports day.
Victoria Nussey, head teacher, said: “Since the appointment of a pastoral manager at our school for enrichment and motivation, Paget has gone from strength to strength. The children have gained a wealth of skills and experiences through PE and sport and have started to experience what success feels like which is filtering back into the classroom.”
Opportunities for PE and school sport to play a fuller role in tackling some of the big issues facing young people are often being missed because they are too often treated in isolation. The funding given to schools through the Primary PE and Sport Premium can help turn the tide on the crisis in young people’s wellbeing.
Primary schools can use the funding to join the Youth Sport Trust’s primary school membership for PE, school sport and physical activity. The charity’s wide range of pioneering member benefits will transform the power of PE in schools across the country.