YST annual conference hears from leading politicians

The Youth Sport Trust is delighted that Schools Minster Damian Hinds and Shadow Schools Minister Catherine McKinnell both addressed our annual conference in Telford via video earlier today.

Recent weeks have seen a heightened focus on the challenges schools face, including those around attendance, attainment and behaviour. We strongly believe that increasing children and young people’s physical activity levels can help make progress against these challenges, whilst improving physical, mental and social wellbeing and supporting the development of key skills.

We hope to see increased political focus on the potential of PE, school sport and play to develop happier, healthier children as we move closer to a general election, and our attendees welcomed the opportunity to hear from both Damian and Catherine.

Speaking from a school in South-East London Damian Hinds, who became Schools Minister in November 2023 having previously served as Secretary of State for Education, said:

“We all want children to be healthy and active, and sport and PE have always been at the heart of what happens at school and children’s experience of school. We want children to be able to access a variety of sports and activities to find what’s right for them.

“But we want to go further and that’s why last year we published the updated School Sport and Activity Action Plan, specifically setting out the aim to have two hours of activity or sport in school each week.

“With the Youth Sport Trust, we’ve also been working on the School Games Mark to improve inclusivity of activity and through Inclusion 2024 reaching out to more children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities.”

In addition to the video above, Minister Hinds has shared the slide below to provide a further update on how the Department for Education is supporting physical activity in schools.

Download the Department for Education slide

Catherine McKinnell became Labour’s Shadow Schools Minister in September 2023 and addressed the audience from the House of Commons. Catherine said:

“As someone who grew up competing in hockey, tennis, netball and swimming tournaments at school, sport is something I care deeply about in my role as Shadow Schools Minister. Sport gave me the confidence, the social skills and that sense of achievement and enjoyment that really helped me to develop my academic skills too.

“Because we know that learning continues outside of the classroom and that for children and young people to take part in sports they need places to play in their community. Reviewing our curriculum, to fully appreciate the importance of sport in schools and as part of our education, is vital.

“I’m so pleased that the theme of this year’s conference looks at how physical education can address some of these challenges facing our education system. We know children can’t excel at school unless they are in school, and sport can help get children back into the classroom, boost their wellbeing and give them a reason to be excited about going to school.”


Ali Oliver, Youth Sport Trust Chief Executive added:

“We are very grateful to both Damian and Catherine for making the time to address our annual conference via video. Everyone in the audience shares our passion for increasing children and young people’s physical activity levels and as we move closer to a general election, it is positive to hear leading politicians reflecting on the importance of PE and school sport. We will continue to encourage all parties to commit to using the power of physical activity to develop children who are happier, healthier and more successful.”

Published on 20 March 2024