School Sport & Activity Sector Partnership Summit

Delegates gathered to hear from government, industry leaders, young people and subject matter experts in the world of PE, physical activity and sport.

On 25th September, more than 120 people from 70 organisations gathered at Villa Park in Birmingham for the School Sport & Activity Sector partnership (SSASP) summit.

The School Sport & Activity Sector Partnership came together in 2019 in response to the publication of the government’s School Sport & Activity Action Plan released earlier that year. The aim of the partnership was to ensure a collective response and a united voice to government on the future of PE, physical activity and sport in schools. From the beginning, the Youth Sport Trust have led the way, bringing over 70 organisations together to take collective action and by using the strength of their united voice, ensuring every young person can benefit from the positive outcomes that participation in PE, school sport and physical activity can bring.


Ali Oliver, CEO of Youth Sport Trust kicked off the day, outlining the key themes of the day and emphasising that although there has been some clarity recently, particularly around the recent Get Active strategy and the target to get 1 million more young people active by 2030, there is still much uncertainty and much work needing to be done. For example, the recent OFSTED report into PE highlighted that only 50% of primary school teachers were confident to teach PE and only 50% of secondary schools were delivering the required 2 hours of PE per week. Ali highlighted that while Government could set the strategy, it was the people in this room who could make the change happen.


Sally Bacon OBE from the Cultural Learning Alliance followed Ali with a keynote speech, sharing the learnings she had taken from the setting up of a shared partnership in the art and culture sector.  Sally highlighted the fact that evidence is absolutely key and emphasised the importance of offering an alternative, when there is a government focus on STEM subjects and a culture that focusses on ‘learning to count, not learning to create.’ In an interesting and wide-ranging talk, Sally outlined the four key ‘C’ elements she believed help to build sector support:

  • Consultation
  • Coalition is king
  • Clarity is key
  • Crafting the value narrative out of a solid evidence base

The first session finished with a panel discussion focussed on getting to the heart of schools. Clare Hoods-Truman who is an executive Head of three schools in Birmingham talked about the struggles early learners were facing when they started school and how a focus on personal development and improving wellbeing through activity was a priority across the multi-academy Trust. Alton Brown was Head of Youth Policy and Programmes at the recent Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and spoke passionately about the importance of listening to young people and ensuring their voices were heard. Consistently the feedback from young people was that they wanted success to be defined by them, not by the adults in the room.

Staff from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport presented alongside colleagues from the Department of Education about the recent strategies and updates from the government. It’s hugely valuable for civil servants and sector partners to be in the same room and attend events such as this as this drives collaboration and joint understanding. Last year’s partner summit helped to inform both the Get Active strategy and the School Sport and Activity Action Plan that were published earlier this year and conversations and insights from today will help to inform future policy and direction.

David Marshall from British Gymnastics has been involved in the sector partnership from the beginning. Talking about the importance of the partnership he said:

“This provides a great, unique opportunity for so many people across the sector to come together to talk about ways to improve school sport and activity. Individually we all do positive work in this area, but the Youth Sport Trust bringing people together with different backgrounds and perspectives is what makes days like this so worthwhile.

Meetings like today really help to drive collaboration that continues beyond the day itself, and helps to forge connections that are crucial to driving improvements not only across the sector, but help us to improve our own organisations delivery and supporting young people.”

Simon Ascroft – Headteacher at Wirral Grammar School for Boys said:

“It’s really useful to understand what the collective position is within the sector and see how that aligns with what we see happening in schools. Sometimes we might see initiatives and programmes that aren’t aligned with schools and it’s reassuring to be in the room to hear the message that ‘not all schools are the same’ and it’s important to understand the context each school operates in. By being here, we can highlight what some of the pressures are in schools and get insight into some of the planning that is going on for the future.”

It was so helpful and instructive to have members of the National Youth Sport Forum join us in the sessions and breakout discussion to provide that all important youth voice and context throughout the day.

Throughout the afternoon, the delegates joined smaller sessions, starting with the partnership’s ‘action groups’ exploring key themes and key system issues in the context of youth engagement, workforce development and physical literacy. Building on the themes of knowledge sharing and learning, a series of TED Talks were delivered by experts from across the school sport and physical activity sector on topics such as Equal Access in Education, Working with Pupil Referral Units and What are the Learnings from Opening School Facilities?

The day finished with a call to action to challenge everyone in the room to continue driving that united voice, working out how we can build for the future and how we can align collectively to drive change to improve life chances for young people.

The group meet quarterly, with the next Winter Forum session scheduled for 25th January, click here to find out more and get involved.



Published on 2 October 2023