PE, sport and physical activity have a crucial role to play in exam success

by Alison Oliver, Chief Executive, Youth Sport Trust

PE, sport and physical activity have a crucial role to play in exam successAs pupils across the country collect their GCSE results we congratulate those who have got the grades they were looking for. Today’s results are testament to huge amounts of hard work and dedication from pupils and their teachers.

But we know school leaders will always be thinking hard about what can be done to achieve more in the future.

In seeking to achieve the best grades through all sorts of approaches and interventions it can sometimes be too easy to overlook the other important factors which help children to fulfill their potential, both inside and outside the classroom.

There is a growing body of research, both in the UK and internationally, which has found a positive association between participation in physical activity and academic performance in young people.

Physical activity does not only improve physical health - it also boosts our confidence, makes us less stressed and improves our mood and motivation. We know that young people who are aerobically fit achieve higher academic scores, particularly in maths and reading.

However, today’s children are likely to be far less active than their parents were. Four in five children do not meet the current recommended guidelines for physical activity. This is damaging their physical and emotional wellbeing and limiting their ability to succeed at school and in life.

The latest figures from the National Child Measurement Programme showed an increase in childhood obesity last year, with almost one in five 10- and 11-year-olds now classed as obese. This isn’t just a health issue, since we know from separate research that children with higher levels of obesity at the age of 11 perform less well in their GCSEs five years later.

Here at the Youth Sport Trust (YST) we are working with thousands of schools across the country to help transform and improve PE, physical activity and sport right from the early years of children’s lives. We like to believe it’s no coincidence that our YST member schools’ GCSEs performance is above the national average.

When primary schools return after the summer break they have a huge opportunity to transform school sport for good, with the doubling of the funding they receive under the Primary PE and Sport Premium.

How pupils fare in their GCSEs in the future years is shaped by what is happening in schools now, from the early years through to secondary. We need to ensure that at every step of the way schools are providing more time for high quality PE taught by properly trained teachers where no child is left behind and where every pupil is physically literate.

If this generation of young children are to fulfill their potential at GCSE level and beyond it will be crucial that PE and school sport are fit for the 21st century.

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