London Sport's Specialist Advisor for Children and Young People, Gary Palmer, explains his call to schools to innovative with the PE and Sport Premium and create sustainable improvements that encourage a healthy, active habit for life.
This week the government committed £320 million to primary schools to help pupils stay physically active through the PE and Sport Premium.
In London, this represents in excess of £34 million being invested into our primary schools, ring-fenced in order to "fund additional and sustainable improvements to the provision of PE and sport, for the benefit of primary-aged pupils…to encourage the development of healthy, active lifestyles."
Whilst this funding might not be the long-term commitment that I hoped it would be, it does at least ensure that the ring-fenced funding that primary schools receive is secure for this academic year.
Now, however, the real work must start.
Since this funding was first awarded in 2015, the announcements have been accompanied with very similar conditions and aspirations and, quite rightly, by some scepticism.
Will schools truly use the investment in this way?
In London at least, we hope that schools will see this as a fantastic opportunity to lay the foundations for all young Londoners to form a positive physical activity habit for life.
In the Sport England Active Lives for Children and Young People Survey (March 2019), 71% of children aged 7-11 and 65% of those aged 11-16 strongly agreed that exercise and sport was good for them.
This survey also identified the close relationship between physical activity and positive social outcomes, with the most physically literate children demonstrating increased levels of happiness, resilience and social trust.
So why do only 43% of children and young people aged 5-16 meet the national recommendations for physical activity, namely 60 minutes a day on average across a week?
What is clear from this is that we need to start doing things differently, and that is where London Sport is focusing its attention.
We want to champion innovation, amplifying effective practice and encouraging more schools to think creatively.
That's why we are working with Outdoor Play and Learning (OPAL) to help more schools to create happier playtimes, better play spaces and enable staff to better support outdoor learning.
We are working with Mini Mermaids to change the lives of girls by shifting their internal experience and the way they interact with the world around them through an innovative character-driven curriculum.
We are working with Rabble to deliver immersive team games sessions for families to be active together on school sites.
And so my plea to primary schools is this:
Please don’t use your funding to employ coaches or specialist teachers to cover planning, preparation and assessment (PPA) time, nor to teach the minimum requirements of your existing PE curriculum or to fund capital expenditure.
Use your funding to make additional and sustainable improvements to your PE, school sport and physical activity offer that will encourage the development of healthy, active lifestyles both now and in the future.
Let that be the legacy of the PE and Sport Premium.