Placing PE and school sport at heart of any future strategy

by Phil Chamberlain, External Relations Director, Youth Sport Trust

The Youth Sport Trust, like many other organisations, has welcomed the Government’s consultation on a new sports strategy. But this needs to soon turn from a notion into a strategy that will form the basis of an ongoing cross-department and cross-party consensus on the development and promotion of sport, physical activity and physical education (PE) for the benefit of society and our communities.                      

This strategy should not look to combine or dilute these very different elements. In fact, it needs to underline the important place that they all play in society, recognise the key differences between them, and look to utilise the skills of the relevant sector organisations to enhance their delivery. Whilst ‘increasing participation’ appears to be of key importance for the new strategy, it is hoped that ‘outcomes achieved’ through driving up participation are the focus rather than just the numbers themselves. We are keen to see the positive development of sport, physical activity and PE through this strategy, with clear work-strands, funded by different Government departments, focussing on specific outcomes.

Having recently attended a session with the All Party Parliamentary Group for Sport, where the consultation was the main area of discussion, that session highlighted a dilemma for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in bringing this consultation process together; how will it represent adequately the views of a very diverse sector, ensuring that Parliamentarians understand the outcomes that need to be reached, whatever the investment or delivery structure? Equally, they will need to ensure that the strategy clearly articulates cross-departmental working, responsibility areas and their broader understanding of the true impact of sport, physical activity and physical education on society. 

This session finished with a call to representatives from those Government Departments who own sections of the consultation document to hear their commitment to sport, but more importantly their understanding of its place within their agendas, budgets and control.  The sector waits with interest to see how that might manifest itself.

As expected from a national charity with 20 years experience delivering high quality PE and sport in schools around the country (as well as in 63 countries across the world), we will be providing an informed and impartial view on the Government’s consultation, which will represent the views of our members and seek out the best for high quality PE and school sport.  Through our experience of delivery on the ground, working alongside key strategic partners and our network of partner and member schools, the Youth Sport Trust has a unique insight into the current state of PE, school sport and physical activity levels among young people and is therefore keen to stress the effect of government policy on their delivery.

Earlier this year, we made a clear call on any future Government to ensure that PE, school sport and physical activity is placed at the heart of any future policy development – be that sport, education, or health – in our Manifesto for PE and School Sport: ‘Unlocking potential’. In our response to this important consultation, we will be clear to rearticulate the ‘asks’ of our manifesto, as any future strategy must:

-          Be joined up and coherent.

-          Ensure a ‘lifelong’ approach.

-          Offer clarity on roles and responsibilities (both policy, investment and delivery) across the distinct areas of PE, school sport and physical activity

-          Be ‘people centred’, building capacity and capability in the sporting system

-          View children’s and young people’s participation as the essential foundations on which all other outcomes are built

-          Instil a sport pathway through the education system

-          Ensure the right organisations are enabled to lead and support the right areas of work.

Ultimately, at the Youth Sport Trust we want to see physical literacy embraced across all schools to ensure young people are confident movers; that a lifelong love of being active is created based on a broad experience of traditional and non-traditional sports; and there is a shared understanding of the value of physical activity and sport throughout life.

To help achieve this, we will outline the importance of a delivery infrastructure to support strategy implementation across all schools; that all young people should be given access to 2 hours high quality PE and school sport each week; ensure that the Primary PE and Sport Premium is maximised and appropriate accountability measures are introduced; and ensure that secondary PE is given due priority to support the health and wellbeing of all young people.