As a school governor and Multi Academy Trust (MAT) trustee, I know the key role governing bodies play in schools. I know too that we sometimes need help in getting our heads around initiatives so that we can best support our headteachers and staff team.
As we govern our schools through the COVID-19 global pandemic, our world of governance has been turned on its head. We are familiar with adapting and responding to challenges over time, but this is exceptional. I know, that despite our challenges, the role every single governor is playing out there is outstanding. As the largest volunteer workforce in the country, we need to be demonstrating the kind of leadership that recognizes so much at stake is unknowable yet finding courage through public service in doing what feels right. Leading either a school or trust is a balancing act — driven through collaboration and working together, providing support for schools and senior leaders, and rightly championing the wonderful ways schools are developing to stay connected to their communities. We are considerate of the enormous task staff have in ensuring continuity of education and making this work on the ground.
After seeing a significant rise in the number of questions from governors over the past month around the role of PE in primary schools since the announcement of the extension in July for the Primary PE and Sport Premium, I felt it was important to pull together some content that is intended to support our collective understanding of the role governors and trustees play in how the Primary PE and Sport Premium should be used. This funding is aimed at developing sustainable Physical Education in our primary schools that will help children develop the physical literacy that will be as important in their lives as the literacy and numeracy that we all work so hard to support.
The difference between Physical Education, physical activity and sport
The terms ‘Physical Education’, ‘physical activity’ and ‘sport’ are often used interchangeably but it is important for governors to understand the difference between them to provide the best possible sporting start in life for young people.
High quality PE, school sport and physical activity contribute to a range of outcomes for children. At the heart is the importance of the physical literacy journey for all pupils, providing breadth and diversity of opportunity across varying contexts to enthuse and equip our pupils to go on and lead healthy, active lives.
Physical Education is the foundation. It is that planned, progressive learning within the taught curriculum that is delivered by teachers, that ensures all young people achieve physical literacy. Developing on from these experiences, and adhering to COVID-19 guidelines, schools should also seek to provide extra-curricular opportunities that develop life-long healthy, active lifestyles and competitive sport participation as well as forming that vital link with community sport and activity.
PE, school sport and physical activity should not be a separate agenda to key whole school priorities. Research shows the vital transformative effects that being active has on the brain. Before we can even consider addressing the progress gap that may have been exaggerated by the COVID crisis, we need to ensure our pupils are ready to learn. By putting a focus on the wellbeing of pupils, embedding PE, school sport and physical activity at the heart of your school’s strategic direction, you are laying strong foundations to support wider school outcomes.
Funding allocations and responsibilities
The Primary PE and Sport Premium has been allocated directly to primary schools since 2013, and in July this year, schools received the confirmation that it will continue into 2020-21.
This funding is allocated to headteachers in primary schools and is ringfenced, meaning it can only be spent on PE and sport in primary schools. This premium must be used to fund additional and sustainable improvements to the provision of PE and sport to benefit primary aged pupils and to encourage the development of healthy, active lifestyles.
If we consider our core functions as school governors/MATs, we need to:
- Ensure clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction
- Hold executive leaders to account for the educational performance of the organisation and its pupils, and the effective and efficient performance management of staff
- Oversee the financial performance of the organisation and make sure its money is well spent
Therefore, it is the responsibility of the whole of the governing board to monitor how funding is allocated and ensure the impact is measured and reported.
Primary PE and School Sport Premium reporting
These reports must be available on the school website and will be scrutinized by Ofsted. I would also advocate it is good practice for the board to appoint a governor who will work with both the subject lead and school to oversee progress. Our governing boards are crucial in deciding how the funding is used and challenging headteachers to ensure that every school makes the most of this money to create its own sporting legacy.
In my governance roles I am both Chair of a primary school board, as well as a Trustee in a MAT which has four schools in receipt of the Primary PE and Sport Premium. At a MAT level we discuss this to ensure there is consistency in both the monitoring of the premium across our schools and also that we are confident that it is being most effectively utilised for the benefit of all pupils. At a school level, it is important to ensure there are regular meetings with subject leads and the head teacher to both support and challenge the spend and provision to maximise its impact.
In terms of the way schools use the premium, a report from the Department for Education (DfE) found that most use it to buy new equipment or improve facilities, upskill existing staff, and/or increase extracurricular sport (over 8 in 10 schools in each case). The report also highlighted that a range of people are involved in deciding how to spend the premium in schools, with 41% of schools mentioning the school governors’ role.
Below is a snapshot of top tips and suggested key questions for governors taken from the new Youth Sport Trust Governor Toolkit.
It is important this is in line with the funding conditions, and governors consistently challenge on how spend is ensuring sustainability and long-term impact.
To conclude, Ofsted’s Inspection Framework, which came into effect from September 2019, gives greater recognition to schools’ work to support the personal development of pupils, such as the opportunities they have to learn about eating healthily and maintaining an active lifestyle. Inspectors will expect to see schools delivering a broad, ambitious education, including opportunities to be active during the school day and through extracurricular activities. As governors we should support and challenge our schools in how they use their PE and Sport Premium to support this and contribute to their overall strategy of raising achievement and improving standards.
The YST’s Governor Toolkit is offered as a benefit of the charity's membership package for schools. For more information visit www.youthsporttrust.org/membership
Vicci Wells is the YST’s National Manager for Targeted Interventions. She is also a Chair of Governors & Multi Academy Trust Director and is the author of widely-read blog, the Young(ish) School Governor.