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PE and Sport Premium renewal is welcome but schools must use investment wisely

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PE and Sport Premium renewal is welcome but schools must use investment wisely

Gary Palmer, London Sport's Strategic Advisor for Children and Young People, gives his thoughts on the government's renewal of the PE and Sport Premium for another academic year and the need for greater scrutiny given the sums involved.

It was great to see the government commit to investing a further £320 million PE and Sport Premium to support primary schools across the next academic year (22/23) to increase physical activity.

Any investment to increase activity levels of young people should be commended, particularly with the level of funding being so high, and I'm sure the PE and school sport sector will be unified in welcoming this investment.

Whilst there were concerns around the announcement coming so close to the end of the academic year, and the fact that it is only confirmed for a single year, this does present us with a fantastic opportunity.

Does that phrase sound familiar? I am pretty sure that I’ve said it before.

Since 2012, the government has invested more than £2.2 billion into primary school PE. So why am I still talking about a fantastic opportunity, after so many years of investment?

I read with interest a recent article by Dr Vicky Randall and Gerald Griggs which explored the 2012 London Olympic Games legacy and, particularly, the intention to improve PE teaching within England’s primary school sector.

They concluded that the investment had failed to increase the “confidence, knowledge and skills of all [primary] staff in teaching PE and sport” due to a significant number of schools choosing to outsource their PE delivery to sports coaches and instructors.

So how can we learn from what has gone before and do what is right, so that the government can really see the value of this investment and commit to long-term funding?

Firstly, there is a need for greater accountability. I was part of the Active Partnership Network tasked back in 2014 with reviewing school websites to ensure that schools were reporting how they had allocated/spent the investment. 

A painstaking and, at times, painful task without the required capacity or a mandate to visit and/or challenge schools on their spend, this monitoring process was removed in 2018.

Since then, schools have been required to publish details of how they spend their PE and Sport Premium funding by the end of the summer term. 

This is now monitored by Department for Education (DfE), who have now taken on the unenviable tasks of sampling a selected number of schools in each local authority to review what they have published on their use of the funding and their swimming attainment.

Anecdotal evidence suggest that a number of schools continue to slip past DfE monitoring and accountability checks. Surely the time has come for greater levels of scrutiny given the considerable sums of money?

Secondly, I would suggest schools should be reminded and held to account on how they are using the investment to address each of the five key indicators in a targeted way rather than just using it however they choose.

The Association for Physical Education in collaboration with the Youth Sport Trust produce an excellent reporting template that schools can use to report on the impact of their spend.

At London Sport, we are committed to give all young Londoners the best opportunity to form a positive physical activity habit for life.

Primary schools play a significant role in helping to achieve this and I hope they will take full advantage of this continued investment to truly embed positive experiences for all young people.

For more guidance on the PE and Sport Premium, head to the London Sport website and share your examples of effective use of the funding by emailing info@londonsport.org.

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London Sport aims to ensure Londoners live happier, healthier lives through sport and physical activity

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London Sport aims to ensure more Londoners live happier, healthier lives through sport and physical activity. Supported by the Mayor of London and Sport England, our target is to get Londoners more physically active.

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