The Department for Education response to the online petition states that it has no plans to change the PE curriculum requirement. It does say it is taking a number of steps to support schools to provide PE and wider opportunities for pupils to be active, which is encouraging.
The response references teacher workforce census data showing a cut in hours of PE taught since 2010, but states that in 2017 PE was still the fourth highest subject in terms of hours taught in secondary schools (after Maths, English and Science).
Responding to the government statement, Youth Sport Trust Chief Executive Ali Oliver said:
“There can be no disagreement that as a nation we aren’t getting it right for children, and too many of them are not gaining the life-changing benefits of sport and play.
Pupils are being taught fewer hours of Physical Education than they were a decade ago, as the government’s response states. And Sport England’s Active Lives research shows 80% of young people fail to do 60 minutes of activity every day - the recommended guideline set out by the Chief Medical Officer.
As a country, we would not accept this sort of decline in English and Maths. We should treat with no less urgency the need to transform and improve young people’s physical education.
“It is disappointing that the Department for Education has said it does not plan to change the PE curriculum requirement. In 2017, there were only around half as many hours of PE on the timetable as there was for English in state-funded secondary schools. The 282,300 hours of PE taught in 2017 is a long way behind the 516,300 hours of English, 511,600 hours of maths and 392,700 hours of combined science. This disparity continues to grow. Almost no subject has faced bigger cuts than PE in recent years, and our own research suggests that even since 2017, one in four schools have reduced its presence on the timetable.
“This problem must be tackled from more than one angle. YST is working with thousands of schools to help improve the quality and intent of teaching in PE. But we also need to see pupils’ progress and achievement in physical development, wellbeing and understanding of healthy, active lifestyles valued with the same importance as progress and achievement in maths and English.
“The government’s minister for sport recently declared that the development of young people’s physical literacy should be put on a par with literacy and numeracy in education.
“It will be absolutely essential that government’s school sport action plan sets out a long-term, joined up approach which delivers on this promise, reversing cuts to PE, tackling the decline in physical activity and maximising the potential of sport and play to improve children’s wellbeing and life chances.”