BLOG: Let's make history and bring about a PE evolution

Ali Oliver, Chief Executive of the Youth Sport Trust, blogs about the charity's new research into PE provision in secondary schools

Time on the curriculum for Physical Education is being squeezed out. Yet according to a new YouGov poll, people are seeing Physical Education’s place on the curriculum as being very important – even more so than history or RE.

As Chief Executive of a national children’s charity, we have long been campaigning for PE to be more valued on the curriculum. While it is reassuring to see that the wider population is now getting the message that exercise is vitally important to good health, and can underpin cognitive performance and learning, we need to act on this momentum and create change now.

This month, we have released our own research into Physical Education Provision in Secondary Schools. What we have found should alarm us all. After working with 487 English secondary schools, our findings suggest that 38% of them have cut timetabled Physical Education for 14-16-year-olds since 2012, while almost one in four (24%) have done so in the last academic year.

By the time young people are aged 16 to 18-years-old they are doing just 34 minutes a week at school. If this theme continues, the very place of Physical Education in our schools will be at risk.

Our research and the YouGov poll come at a time when too many young people are inactive, obesity rates are going up, mental health issues are increasing, and there is a need for growing resilience and other employability skills among this generation.

I am sure I speak for many when I say it is time for an overhaul of Physical Education and how it is delivered to place much greater emphasis on using sport and physical activity as a vehicle through which we intentionally focus on developing young people’s confidence, emotional wellbeing, physical health and life skills.

A secondary school’s Physical Education provision is often judged on GCSE PE grades and trophies rather than its impact engaging and developing the health and wellbeing of students across the school. This needs to change – school sport and PE should be about so much more when considering the part it can play in improving young people’s access to learning across the whole curriculum – it can literally help them to be fit enough to learn and well enough to achieve their potential in life.

High quality Physical Education uses sport as a vehicle through which a joy of movement is established, life skills are developed and an understanding of a healthy lifestyle is acquired. Therefore, cuts to Physical Education time are depriving young people of these benefits at a time when they have never needed them more. We will be selling this and future generations short if Physical Education is not made fit for the 21st century and put at the heart of a broad and balanced curriculum in our schools.

I ask that if you do one thing this week, please think about all the positive benefits that Physical Education creates and then help to spread this influence so we can become better role models and create a brighter future for all children and young people through physical activity.

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