Ahead of a huge summer of sport in 2024, schools will receive new guidance on delivering two hours of PE a week, and equal access to sport and PE.

Brand new guidance published this week will help inspire the next generation of British athletes by supporting schools to boost high-quality PE and school sport.

This will create the foundations for active healthy lifestyles and help children follow in the footsteps of the sporting heroes they’ll be watching this summer at the Olympics, Paralympics and Euro 2024 football tournament. The guidance, which will be published in the run-up to the Women’s Six Nations Championship, builds on the government’s commitment to improve the quality of PE and sport for all pupils.

As set out in the updated School Sport and Activity Action Plan published last year, which delivered on promises made by the Prime Minister and Education Secretary to the Lionesses, the guidance will support schools to offer equal sporting opportunities for girls and boys, alongside a minimum of 2 hours of PE per week, helping to build a brighter future for our children.

This is just one of the ways the government is helping schools give young people the best start in life, regardless of background. The plan is working as school standards continue to rise with 90% of schools now judged to be Good or Outstanding last year, up from 68% in 2010.

Drawing on exemplary case studies from across the country, the new guidance provides inspiration for schools to offer all pupils inclusive and high-quality PE, sport and physical activity. It demonstrates how schools can remove barriers to participation in PE by taking the specific needs of pupils into account, embedding plans into the school’s strategy, and building relationships with local and national sport bodies.

Using the new guidance will help schools to meet both the ambitions of the national curriculum and the Chief Medical Officers’ physical activity guidelines, which recommends that children should take part in moderate to vigorous physical activity for an average of 60 minutes a day.

The Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said:

Sport is profoundly important – it is good for our physical health and good for our souls.

That is why we are ensuring that girls and boys have the same opportunity to access school sport and can benefit from a minimum of at least two hours of P.E a week.

Taken together with the £600 million we are investing in school sports, this new approach will empower students to improve their physical and mental wellbeing and learn important skills like teamwork and leadership

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said:

As the Women’s Six Nations kicks off, I’m delighted that we’re taking the next step to support schools to help boys and girls follow their sporting role models. I know there are so many benefits to being active, not just in terms of physical health but also to build wellbeing and positive mental health.

It is inspiring to see the innovative ways that schools around the country are offering every child access to quality sporting opportunities, regardless of their background, and this guidance will help even more schools to instil a lifelong passion for sport and fitness in every young person.

Secretary of State for Education, Gillian Keegan. Picture by Rory Arnold / No 10 Downing Street. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED

Examples cited in the guidance include Shoreham Academy, where PE staff worked closely with their Inclusion and Learning Support team to make sure that pupils with special education needs and disabilities (SEND) were able to take part in PE. By purchasing new equipment for accessible activities like Boccia and Goalball, pupils with disabilities such as Muscular Dystrophy and Downs Syndrome have been able to participate fully in school sports.

Key to the government’s vision for PE in schools is ensuring boys and girls have the same opportunities for school sport. The new guidance spotlights schools who are leading the way to ensure that whether you are a girl or a boy, this is not a barrier to participation in sport.

From Telford Langley school, which worked with the Rugby Football Union to offer a regular after-school rugby club for girls, to The Alexandra Park School which trained groups of girls to lead girls only football sessions, schools across the country are taking innovative approaches to ensure that girls feel empowered to engage in school sports.

The guidance shows how some schools which offer excellent PE and sports provision have seen improvements to pupil behaviour, confidence and wellbeing, while a strong extra-curricular sports offer at school can develop children’s sense of community and belonging. For example, Wright Robinson College introduced a series of casual, non-competitive sports clubs which run during the school day, creating an inclusive environment which develops character and boosts mental health.

The expectation will be that schools will use these case studies and examples to drive improvements in their own school sport provision and ensure they are offering equal opportunities for girls and boys.

Martin Robinson, Head Teacher of Wright Robinson College said:

It is extremely important that all students have access to two hours of PE and sport every week. Physical and mental wellbeing impact across all areas of college life.

If we are to develop healthy, resilient young people equipped to face the challenges of modern life, there can be no better medium through which to do this than through high-quality PE and sport. This guidance will support school leaders to find solutions to effectively deliver PE and school sport so all children can benefit.

Sue Wilkinson MBE, CEO of the Association for Physical Education (afPE) said:

afPE strongly believes that education through the physical domain is key to improving children’s physical, emotional, social and cognitive development. The guidance shares examples of how some schools have reviewed and advanced practice to ensure children and young people can achieve the best outcomes. Physical education is the foundation which enables all children and young people to be physically active and engage in a range of additional sport and physical activities.

The profession can unite behind this guidance and collaborate to ensure effective implementation, to the benefit of all children and young people.

Youth Sport Trust CEO Ali Oliver said:

The Youth Sport Trust welcomes the new non-statutory guidance. Children and young people who regularly access physical activity have better physical, mental and social wellbeing, while maximising PE and school sport can help tackle some of the educational challenges we face around attendance, behaviour and attainment.

At present, too many children and young people are inactive, with less than half meeting the amount of daily physical activity recommended by the UK’s Chief Medical Officers. This guidance provides school leaders with further insight into why being active is so important for the education and development of young people, and how they can unlock the potential of PE, school sport and physical activity within their school. As a youth-led charity, we are particularly pleased to see recognition of the importance of youth voice embedded throughout.

Participating in physical activity from a young age is a crucial way to build healthy habits for life. Last year, the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) launched the National Physical Activity Taskforce that brings together government departments, sector organisations and sports personalities to help achieve the aims set out in the Get Active strategy.Ugo Monye, former England rugby player and co-chair of the National Physical Activity Taskforce (NPAT) said:

As a dad, I am personally invested in getting children active and igniting a passion for sport from an early age. 

As Co-Chair of the NPAT I have been calling for improved access to better quality school sport. This announcement is a welcome step in the right direction and will help continue to push forward the NPAT’s important agenda.

Lark Atkin-David, England Rugby Women’s player and former teacher said:

Access to PE in school is so important for encouraging girls and boys to be active, stay healthy and develop sporting skills, many of which are transferrable no matter which sport you’re playing. Sport gives you so much beyond the physical and mental health benefits of being active, it teaches you the value of teamwork, provide leadership skills, builds friendships outside the classroom and gives you confidence through your sporting achievements. 

School sport was so important to me and I’m not sure I’d be where I am today if it wasn’t for the foundational skill development I got from PE at school.

The new guidance complements up to £57 million which is already supporting over one thousand schools across England to open sport facilities outside of the school day. This fund is targeted at girls, disadvantaged pupils and pupils with SEND. Primary schools are also able to draw on over £600 million funding across academic years 2023/24 and 2024/25 for the PE and Sport Premium which is designed to help children get an active start in life.

Source: Department for EducationThe Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP, and The Rt Hon Gillian Keegan MP

Photo credit: Department for Culture, Media and Sport / UK Gov – CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED

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