A glimpse 20 years into the future for PE and school sport

by Alison Oliver, Youth Sport Trust's Chief Executive

Twenty years from now, there is a real possibility that young people could be completely overwhelmed by technology.

No one today can ignore the beat of the digital drum and when it comes to young people, we often question what the right balance might be. How much is too much or may screen restrictions inhibit our children’s digital development?

Today we learnt that for PE and school sport, the future is in the balance. The publication of The Class of 2035: promoting a brighter and more active future for the youth of tomorrow, presents both worrying and optimistic outlooks for future generations. It also tells us that, by taking action now, we can help ensure a generation which is ‘fit-for-purpose’.

The report shows PE and school sport at a critical crossroads. It states the subject has an essential role to play in mitigating a physically and socially disengaged future generation distracted by technology.

It was no surprise to find the digital world at the heart of the research which looked at key influencers on young people’s relationship with physical activity and sport in the future.  The report demonstrates how technology can be used to modernise PE and school sport, empower young people to take responsibility for their own activity levels, and importantly that PE can play an important role in educating young people about healthy balance in their lives. By working with schools, experts and a range of partners, we stand a real chance of achieving the best possible future outlined in the report – and avoid a ‘sidelined’ generation.

While there is work to do, the report is powerful in profiling the value of PE and school sport to young people and the difference it can make to the life chances of the next generation.

By surveying 1,000 5-16-year-olds, the report found that 75% of young people enjoy PE lessons in school and 64% stated they feel better about themselves after doing sport. These are very important statistics. At the Youth Sport Trust, we know that PE, sport and physical activity can dramatically boost emotional wellbeing, an essential ingredient for success in the classroom and in life. With declining wellbeing (younger teenagers have lower wellbeing than other age groups with 15% of those aged 14 and 15 having the lowest life satisfaction of all children) this is a priority area for our charity. 

However, other insights also remind us that the relationships between high quality PE, school sport, wellbeing and achievement are not widely understood by young people themselves. Only 14% recognised that involvement in sport, recreation and physical activity can have a positive impact on marks achieved in class.

The challenge has been set and the Youth Sport Trust is committed to working with Government and partners within business, education, sport and health to modernise and transform PE and school sport so it is relevant and meaningful in a digital age and in doing so, making the strongest contribution to young people’s wellbeing, personal development, and achievement.

Work is already underway. We launch this report today to coincide with National School Sport Week 2015, a celebration of PE and school sport with nearly 5,000 schools across the UK and 1.8 million young people pledging to ‘Give me 5’ – take part in 60 active minutes a day, every day of the week.

Campaigns like National School Sport Week are designed to help realise our mission of building a brighter future for young people through PE and school sport. We are immensely proud of the training, programmes and innovations we have brought to PE and school sport over the last 20 years and are hungrier than ever to do more in the next 20. With one in 10 young people aged 5 - 16 suffering from a diagnosable mental health disorder and one third of those aged 11 – 14 having experienced cyber bullying, our work and thought leadership has never been more important. 

I hope you will take time to read the report or meet the Class of 2035 at our microsite and contribute your reflections, ideas and views which will help inform where next for PE and School Sport.  Thank you for your interest in the future wellbeing of young people – while they only represent a third of our population, they are the whole of our future.