An open letter to Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson

A letter to the final two candidates for the Conservative Party leadership.

Dear Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP and Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP,

Many congratulations on making it through to the final two candidates for the Conservative Party leadership.

In a few weeks’ time, one of you will take the office of Prime Minister. While there will be no shortage of issues vying for your attention, we are writing to urge you to make it a priority to tackle a trend which will have profound future consequences without urgent action.

The alarming decline in the wellbeing of children and young people in our country

The health and wellbeing of a generation of young people across the UK is in decline. Government figures show that one in eight young people aged between five and nineteen has a mental health disorder, and one in three is overweight or obese by the time they leave primary school. At the same time, knife crime is growing in our communities and too many young people are lonely or lost. In recent years, pupils in the UK have consistently ranked among the least happy in the world.

It is no coincidence that this comes at a time when young people have never been less active. There is significant evidence to support the critical role of play, sport and physical education in increasing physical and mental health, developing character and life skills, improving cognitive performance, building social connectedness, and promoting social mobility.

Dealing with the symptoms alone not only misses the opportunity to address the root cause of many of these issues, but is allowing some of the potential solutions to be marginalised or underestimated. In state-funded English secondary schools, physical education has been cut by more than almost any other subject with over 51,000 hours of curriculum PE lost between 2010 and 2017. Meanwhile, the Chief Medical Officer’s recommendation of 60 active minutes every day is achieved by just 18% of young people; and our own research has revealed only one in four parents is aware of the target.

The need for government action

We ask you to publicly pledge that tackling the decline in young people’s overall wellbeing will be a key pillar of your programme for government, and that your government will set out bold, ambitious and measurable targets to harness the power of play, sport and physical education to ensure every child enjoys at least 60 active minutes a day.

While some of us have been pleased to contribute to the ongoing development of government’s School Sport Action Plan, this alone will not be enough. It must form part of a broader cross-government strategy focussed on improving the health, happiness and life chances of young people.

This week thousands of schools, sporting organisations and charities have joined together for YST National School Sport Week to celebrate the power of sport and play to improve wellbeing. There is an appetite to do so much more.

In making it a priority to tackle the decline in young people’s wellbeing, a government you lead would have the potential to make a meaningful, lasting and transformative impact on individual lives and the future of this country.

Yours sincerely,

Ali Oliver, Chief Executive, Youth Sport Trust

Baroness Sue Campbell, Director of Women's Football, The FA

Steve Grainger MBE, Rugby Development Director, Rugby Football Union

Sally Munday MBE, CEO, England Hockey

Jo Adams, CEO, England Netball

Adrian Christy, CEO, England Badminton

Jane Nickerson, CEO, Swim England

Jane Allen, CEO, British Gymnastics

Chris Jones, CEO, England Athletics

Laura Cordingley, CEO, Chance to Shine

James Blake, CEO, YHA

John Herriman, CEO, Greenhouse Sports

Dr William Bird MBE, CEO and Founder, Intelligent Health

Sir David Carter, Former National Schools Commissioner

Dame Mo Brennan, CEO, Matrix Academy Trust

Dawn Haywood, Deputy CEO, Windsor Academies Trust

Peter Rubery, CEO, Fallibroome Multi Academy Trust

Sue Williamson, CEO, SSAT

Rosi Prescott, CEO, Central YMCA

Alison Richard, Headteacher, Hertingfordbury Cowper Primary School

Amy Joynes, Headteacher, Stanchester Academy

Andrew Carry, Headteacher, St Joseph's RC Primary School

Andrew O'Brien, Headteacher, Accrington Academy

Andy Stones, Headteacher, William Farr CofE Comprehensive School

Ben Levinson, Headteacher, Kensington Primary School

Bernadette Wood, Headteacher, St Oswald's Catholic Primary School, Longton

Billy Downie, Headteacher, The Streetly Academy

Brian McNally, Headteacher, All Saints' Roman Catholic High School, Rossendale

Chris Willan, Headteacher, Water Primary School

David Bailey, Headteacher, Biddenham International School and Sports College

Davan Bell, Headteacher, The Joseph Whitaker School

David O'Farrell, Headteacher, St Bernadette's Catholic Primary School

Denise Fountain, Headteacher, The Dame Ellen Pinsent School

Derek Peaple, Headteacher, Park House School

Desmond Callaghan, Headteacher, St Bede's Roman Catholic High School, Blackburn

Euan Ferguso, Headteacher, Isleworth and Syon School for Boys

Farhan Adam, Headteacher, Crown Hills Community College

Garan Fay, Headteacher, St Michael's Catholic School

Georgina Mulhall, Headteacher, Gomer Junior School

Gillian Sparrow, Headteacher, Hillstone Primary School

Helen Andrioli, Headteacher, Westcroft School

Helen Longton-Howorth, Headteacher, Carden Nursery and Primary School

Ian Baxter, Headteacher, Awsworth Primary and Nursery School

Ian Holmes, Headteacher, Thorner Church of England Primary School

Iain Horner, Headteacher, Chesterton Church of England Voluntary Aided Primary School

Ivan Gaughan, Headteacher, Holy Cross Catholic High School

Jack Newton, Headteacher, Underhill School

Jacqueline Mowart, Headteacher, Hareside Primary School

James Pulle, Headteacher, Wilmslow High School

James Topham, Headteacher, Wood Green Academy

Jamie Jardine, Headteacher, The Heath School

Jan Atkinson, Headteacher, Shooters Hill Sixth Form College

Jonathan Heath, Headteacher, John Spence Community High School

Jonathan Wilden, Headteacher, Folio Education Trust

Julie Hazeldine, Headteacher, Flixton Girls School

Julie Wright, Headteacher, Bedonwell Junior School

Karl Rogerson, Headteacher, Billesley Primary School

Katie Jenning, Headteacher, Mission Grove Primary School

Kathryn Harper-Quinn, Headteacher, Hounslow Heath Infant and Nursery School

Kevin Ford, Headteacher, Great Marlow School

Kim Webster, Headteacher, Clare Mount Specialist Sports College

Laura Woods, Headteacher, Roger De Clare First CofE School

Leanne Symmonds, Headteacher, Ringwood School Academy

Len Batey, Headteacher, Barrowby Church of England Primary School

Len Hazlehurst, Headteacher, Straits Primary School

Lisa Fathers, Director of Teaching Schools, Alliance for Learning

Mark Avoth, Headteacher, The Bourne Academy

Martin McLeman, Headteacher, Queen Elizabeth's School

Matt Nicholl, Headteacher, Nanpean Community Primary School

Mican Hooper, Headteacher, West Heath Primary School

Michelle Walton, Headteacher, Brocks Hill Primary School

Neil McAvoy, Deputy Headteacher, Clavering Primary School

Neil Oldham, Headteacher, Highfurlong School

Neil Saunders, Deputy Headteacher, Micheal Syddall CofE Aided Primary School

Neville Beischer, Headteacher, Wright Robinson College

Nikki St.John, Headteacher, St Katharine's Church of England Primary School

Paul Dickinson, Headteacher, Archbishop Beck Catholic Sports College

Peter Bourton, Headteacher, Idsall School

Petan Gaul, Headteacher, The Hawthorne's Free School

Peter Mcquillen Strong, Headteacher, Holy Family Catholic Primary School

Richard Slade, Headteacher, Plumcroft Primary School

Ronald Skelton, Headteacher, Broadway Academy

Salan Brooks, Headteacher, Fulham College Boys' School

Sam Naismit, Headteacher, Flora Gardens Primary School

Sarah Rowe, Headteacher, Walton-on-Trent CofE School

Sharon Asquith, Headteacher, Ashton Community Science College

Sian Hall, Head of School, St Breock Primary School

Simon Ascroft, Headteacher, Biddulph High School

Simon Eccles, Headteacher, St Mary's Catholic Academy

Stephen Munday, Headteacher, Comberton Village College

Steve Tindall, Headteacher, Holy Family Catholic Primary School

Sue Ijewsky, Headteacher, Friars Academy

Tash Moriarty, Headteacher, The Harefield Academy

Toby Miller, Headteacher, St Peter's Catholic School

Vic Goddard, Headteacher, Passmores Academy

Wayne Randle, Headteacher, Mullion School

Yvoan Hewson, Headteacher, Bure Park Primary School

Emma Thomas, CEO, Young MInds

James Toop, CEO, 2030 Alliance


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Published on 28 June 2019