Ali Oliver, Chief Executive Officer at the Youth Sport Trust, said:
We agree with the committee’s response to the Government’s Green Paper on mental health but it is disappointing to see little reference to the link between physical activity and the positive effect play and sport can have on young people’s mental wellbeing. As a children’s charity, we have long been championing the vital role that a refocussed physical education curriculum has in giving young people the skills they need not only for work, but for life.
As we’ve highlighted in previous research we have conducted and through our new strategy, the curriculum is narrowing and there is a real need for a broad and balanced curriculum, particularly in secondary schools, to stop the drivers of declining mental health and the pressures young people currently face with rising exam stress and the impact of social media on personal relationships. We need further action and to prevent mental health issues from ever arising rather than simply intervening when the damage has been done. The transformative impact of being active and playing sport must be taken seriously to do this.
It holds so many of the answers to a healthier, happier generation - belonging, resilience, self-esteem as well as the positive impact physical activity can have on mood.
We are piloting a number of partnership programmes across the country where a new physical education offer, alongside a whole school approach to wellbeing is generating promising evidence of impact.
We call on the government to build on their investment into the Primary PE and Sport Premium and harness the contribution Physical Education, daily physical activity and sport can make in secondary schools, if it is explicitly focussed on young people’s wellbeing.