Schoolzone | Physical education and sport in schools

Physical education and sport in schools

Date: 02.10.2018

PE in the National Curriculum

Under the reformed National Curriculum, which local authority maintained schools have been required to teach since September 2014, PE remains a compulsory subject at all key stages. Academies and free schools do not have to follow the National Curriculum but are required to provide a broad and balanced curriculum that promotes, among other things, the physical development of pupils. National Curriculum programmes of study outline what should be taught at each key stage.

Funding for PE and school sport

Funding for school PE and sport forms part of the Dedicated Schools Grant, which is not broken down by subject or curriculum area. In addition, since 2013-14, additional ring-fenced funding has been provided to primary schools through the Primary PE and Sport Premium. From 2017-18, revenue from the soft drinks industry levy has been used to double the value of the premium from £160 million to £320 million. The Government has stated that the funding will continue to be provided up to 2020.

In February 2017, the Government announced that that £415 million of funding from the soft drinks industry levy would be allocated to schools in 2018-19 to “pay for facilities to support physical education, after-school activities and healthy eating.” The funding was referred to as the Healthy Schools Capital Programme. In July 2017, the Education Secretary announced that the funding available for the Programme would be reduced from £415 million to £100 million to part fund an additional £1.3 billion for the core schools budget in 2018-19 and 2019-20. The £100 million has been allocated through the current arrangements for schools capital funding for 2018-19.

The School Games

In June 2010, the Coalition Government announced plans for a national Olympic and Paralympic-style sports competition for schools. The first competition began in September 2011 with the finals taking place in May 2012 at the Olympic Park.

A review published in July 2016 concluded that the School Games are “well placed to make a strong contribution” to the Government’s sports strategy. The report made 17 recommendations aimed at maximising the value and impact of the Games and ensuring that they are “relevant to more children and young people and their lives today.”

School playing fields

From October 2012, new regulations have applied to the provision of outdoor space by schools. These require that suitable outdoor space must be provided to enable “pupils to play outside” and “physical education to be provided to pupils in accordance with the school curriculum”.

Local authorities and schools must seek the consent of the Secretary of State when seeking to dispose of publicly funded school land, including playing fields. Guidance on the disposal of school playing fields, which was updated in February 2015, sets out the relevant legislation and procedure relating to the disposal of school land.

2015 Sport Strategy

In December 2015, the Government published a new sport strategy, Sporting Future A New Strategy for an Active Nation. Regarding school sport, the strategy emphasised the importance of linking together the different stages of education and “more clearly join[ing] up the overall approach”. The strategy contained a number of commitments relating to schools, including that

The PE Sport Premium would be retained.

The effectiveness and future priorities of the School Games would be assessed

A working group would advise on how to ensure no child leaves school without a minimum swimming capability.

The Government would seek to better understand the drop –off in engagement from primary to secondary, particularly for those groups most affected such as girls.

The second annual report on the sport strategy was published in February 2017.

School Sport Action Plan

In October 2018, the Education Secretary announced that the Government would develop a cross-government school sport and activity action plan that “will consider ways to ensure that all children have access to quality, protected PE and sport sessions during the school week and opportunities to be physically active throughout the school day.” The plan is expected to be launched in spring 2019.

Surveys and reports on PE and school sport

The final section of the briefing provides information on a number of recent surveys and reports on the provision of PE and school sports.

More information on School Sport Partnerships, including the decision to end ring-fenced funding for them is provided in Library Briefing Paper 6052, School Sport Partnerships.



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