PE & School Sport: The Annual Report 2024

Our latest PE and School Sport Report highlights the issues facing children and young people today and the need to take urgent action. The world is rapidly changing - innovative thinking and creative solutions are required if we are to fully harness the power of physical activity to build brighter futures for children and young people.

You can read the headlines from the report below, or download the full report at the bottom of this page.

This generation's wellbeing remains in crisis

Children and young people’s happiness is at an all-time low, whilst loneliness and mental health disorders are on the rise. Mental health and wellbeing for children in the UK is amongst the worst in the world. The scale of the challenge requires an urgent response, not just to support this generation but to deliver the change needed so all children can grow up happier and healthier.

Increasing physical activity levels for children and young people must be at the heart of the solution

Given its potential to deliver a wide range of benefits to address the challenges this generation faces, increasing physical activity for children and young people must be made a priority. Children who are physically active on a regular basis have better mental, physical and social wellbeing and greater participation in sport and physical activity at school is positively associated with improved self-belief and mental toughness. Being sufficiently active in childhood is associated with improved academic performance and employability. The benefits of being physically active are many and varied – and must be accessible to every child.

Too many children are missing out on being active and we are not unlocking their potential

Currently, only 47% of children are meeting the UK’s Chief Medical Officers’ recommended daily activity levels. Less than a third of teachers (30%) and parents (31%) are aware that children should be active for 60 minutes a day, and awareness has fallen year on year. At the same time, the digitalisation of society has created a culture where seven in ten parents believe digital distractions mean their children are spending less time being active. We need to deliver societal change to elevate the role physical activity plays in children’s day-to-day life.

Did you know?

of teachers and 31% of parents are aware children should be active for 60 minutes or more a day
of parents agree digital distraction means their child is spending less time being active
1 in 5
children in England are obese or overweight by the time they are five years old

Schools need support to put physical activity at the heart of the school day

At present, schools are struggling to leverage the power of physical activity to support young people and tackle challenges within education, including absence, low attainment and poor behaviour. The number of PE teachers and amount of PE hours taught in schools is declining, whilst PE, school sport and physical activity are not prioritised adequately. As a result, our education system is failing to develop children who are active and well. Cultural change is needed to elevate the value of PE, school sport and play.

This lack of progress is taking place against a backdrop of deepening inequalities

The cost-of-living crisis is having a negative impact on opportunities children and young people have to be active, particularly for those growing up in lower income households. Given that the wellbeing impact of school sport and physical activity is doubled for those from low affluence families, it is of significant concern that external factors may result in many missing out. Girls also continue to be less active than boys, and the ‘PE enjoyment gap’ continues to widen. Addressing these inequalities requires a focus on those with the greatest need for support.

The evidence within this report strengthens our passionate belief that every child should be empowered to be active every day, with schools playing a vital role in delivering opportunities. It is clear that change is needed to deliver on this ambition and our manifesto for action – published earlier this year – sets out a vision, building on this report’s overarching narrative that by increasing physical activity levels, we can develop young people who are happy, healthy and ready to learn.

Download the report

Click below to download the full report.

Published on 14 June 2024