Responding to Education, Children and Violence Report

Play and sport can change lives and it is encouraging that this viewpoint underpins many of the proposals in this new Youth Endowment Fund report.

The Youth Endowment Fund’s (YEF) new report – Education, Children and Violence – explores the essential role sport and physical activity can play in tackling the challenges that today’s children and young people face, including being involved in violence.

The Youth Sport Trust is resolute in our belief that play and sport can change lives and it is encouraging that this viewpoint underpins many of the proposals YEF puts forward. Our own manifesto highlights the role physical activity can play in improving physical, mental and social wellbeing, as well as providing access to skills and experience and fostering a sense of belonging. Providing opportunities to be physically active during and around the school day is an essential component of a coordinated approach to making progress with challenges around attendance, attainment and behaviour.

It is saddening – albeit sadly, perhaps not surprising – to see one-in-five children said they missed school last year due to feeling unsafe, and that 15% of teachers reported that a child had brought a weapon into school. Urgent action is needed to lead this and future generations away from violence and we echo the YEF’s conclusion that sport has a vital role to play.

One of the most pressing challenges is keeping children in education and as the report notes, schools, colleges and AP settings can provide safe, trusted spaces for children, including through access to activities before and after the school day. This can be particularly important in providing safe places to be and things to do immediately after school, when parents and carers are often still in work. Young people should be empowered to identify activities that they would like to participate in, including different types of sport and physical activity.

Increasing attendance for those not currently participating at school requires tailored support and interventions, giving children a reason to be at school and subsequently in the classroom. School sports clubs and access to physical activity that is enjoyable can provide an incentive to attend, whilst also developing life skills including resilience, confidence and communication that can aid progress in the classroom. Breakfast clubs offer a way to prepare children to start the school day ready to learn, and where possible should embed opportunities for physical activity as a contribution towards a child’s 60 active minutes a day of PE, sport and play.

The report acknowledges the role that sports coaches and other trusted adults can play in protecting children from violence, including by delivering sports sessions after school. However, many schools need focused support or resource to deliver the high-quality, engaging range of activities that can help every child find a passion for movement. To deliver this, the Youth Sport Trust has called for the creation of a nationally led, locally embedded dedicated coordination and delivery team working across a family of schools in every community. This team, informed by previous approaches that increased children’s physical activity levels, would provide local coordination, creating opportunities to be active through partnerships with local clubs and providers.

Finally, the YEF calls for schools to prioritise the development of social and emotional skills for children. Providing regular and enjoyable opportunities to be active is proven to be an effective way to improve and manage wellbeing. We have called for the creation of a nation of active and well schools, as part of a new national plan to guarantee every child access to 60 active minutes a day, as recommended by the UK’s Chief Medical Officers. By providing regular physical activity through PE, school sport and play, we can get upstream of the challenges children and young people face and develop a generation of children that is happier, healthier and more successful.

Published on 16 May 2024