One small step is not enough!

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The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on A Fit and Healthy Childhood has given a cautious welcome to the Government’s long-awaited School Sport and Activity Action Plan.

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Helen Clark MP, chair of the APPG working group that produced the report

Our report, The Primary PE and Sport Premium, was published in February, and we welcome the Government’s adoption of two of its key recommendations: a cross-departmental strategy, and the decision to include ‘Activity’ in the title.

However, the Government still has work to do. As members of the APPG that has produced no less than four reports on children’s physical activity, we have some serious reservations.
Parents, teachers and communities need clarity about the Government’s intentions concerning the Primary PE and Sport Premium for 2020. These are vague (at best) and look as though they could be pushed aside altogether.

If the new Prime Minister intends to investigate so-called ‘sin taxes’ and promote physical activity, we need to know exactly where the money will be coming from. It must be done in a way that will be positive for our young people and not associated with mixed messaging about ‘control of academic attainment’ and ‘classroom behaviour.’

We agree very strongly that PE teaching must be made fit for 21st century children, but what will this mean?

Our report was jointly sponsored by the Universities of Winchester, Sheffield Hallam and Kingston. Winchester University’s Dr Vicky Randall pointed to the distinct nature of physical education, sport and physical activity in childhood; cautioning against the use of language that reduced movement to a series of competitive sporting experiences. Dr Randall has welcomed the action plan; in particular, the aim to address children’s health through a cross-departmental approach.

However, the lack of clarity about ‘physical education’ is worrying – as is the choice of examples used to illustrate a modern and inclusive curriculum. Over the coming months, it is crucial that Initial Teacher Education and schools work alongside Government to shape and influence this strategy and ways in which the vision can now be implemented.

It is two cheers from us, but children deserve more from the Government than this one small step. Above all, movement – or sport and physical activity – is simply not about ‘controlling’ children’s behaviour. It is a positive and life-affirming entitlement for all children in its many wonderful ways.

PE has become subservient to physical activity and sport in this plan. We must be given greater clarity on what is actually meant by ‘physical education’. The Government needs to understand that its work on this important policy should not end with the publication of a report.

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