Speakers: Helen Clark, Lead Author; Dr Victoria Randall, University of Winchester; Jack Shakespeare, Head of ukActive Kids; James Opie, Author; and Loretta Sollars, Public Health England.
13 March 2019
All-Party Parliamentary Group on a Fit and Healthy Childhood
The Launch of the Working Group Report “The Primary PE and Sport Premium”
Chair: Steve McCabe MP
Speakers: Helen Clark, Lead Author; Dr Victoria Randall, University of Winchester; James Opie, Author; Jack Shakespeare, Head of ukActive Kids; Loretta Sollars, Deputy Head, Children, Young People & Families Lifecourse Team, Public Health England
Chair’s Opening Remarks:
Good evening everybody and welcome to this, the 41st meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on a Fit and Healthy Childhood.
It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all this evening – and it’s particularly special for me as it is my first full meeting as Chair of this most industrious and productive All Party Group.
I’m delighted to have the opportunity of continuing the excellent work of my predecessor Jim Fitzpatrick who established this group with our inspirational Co-Chair, Baroness Benjamin, and I look forward to what will be a very busy and productive year’s work ahead.
Tonight we’re here to launch our 13th report entitled ‘The Primary PE and Sport Premium’. This is our third report to have as its theme, physical activity and Physical Education. There has been a great deal of interest in the report since its media launch last month which underlines the fact that for far too long, this policy area has been simply sidelined.
The PESS Premium, introduced by former Prime Minister, David Cameron was a direct legacy response to the wonderful national achievement of the 2012 Olympics. The Premium was, and is, a serious response to the problem – but as our report has shown, simply allocating sums of money (although most welcome) is never enough on its own.
What has the PESS achieved to date? What will its own legacy be? How can we ensure that improvements to Physical Educational and physical activity in their widest sense are not just channelled into ‘sport’ and an attempt to create more elite athletes and medallists at future Olympic Games, important though such an aim is?
We’re extremely fortunate this evening to have with us some most distinguished speakers who have contributed to our work in this report and have kindly agreed to introduce it to us.
Helen Clark, Lead Author
This report, as Steve said, is our 13th report and it came out of our increasing interest in physical education. As a group we are called the APPG on a Fit and Healthy Childhood and quite deliberately the group has a broad remit. We’ve talked about obesity, about nutrition, about play, and several reports ago we did a report on PE. It turned out to be quite a revelation, and I described it as a “Cinderella subject”. We hear a lot about sport, quite rightly, but it’s very much in terms of elite sport or professional sport rather than physical education or even physical activity. Our report dragged it into the daylight – but I’m not giving us any particular credit for this as I know that so many practitioners up and down the country – whether in primary or secondary schools or advisors or whatever – have been saying this for a long time.
Looking back at my time at school, PE was often an embarrassment both to pupils and teachers. My teachers didn’t even like the subject. On the other hand there were schools like Gordonstoun where Prince Philip and Price Charles went, which is at the other end of the spectrum.
Most children are actually in between these two extremes. The want and need physical education and it has to be as important as other subjects such as reading and writing.
I think it’s very important that David Cameron took that bold decision in 2012 and established the premium – it was a very worthy aim and I think everyone throughout the sector was delighted with it. But as well as being delighted, there were questions about how to use it and what the legacy might be. We know that funding doesn’t last forever: no funding is there eternally, and it’s basically a question of what it will achieve and what it will build. We’ve written the report very much with that in mind. David Cameron established the premium in terms of a legacy: what is the premium going to be like in the 21st century?
One of the things we said was that while we’re not negating sport, let’s get away from all that talk of elite sport which clouds the issue. We have said therefore that we should start by re-naming it, and we recommend “The Primary Physical Education and Activity Premium”. We’re saying that activity includes sport, but we shouldn’t allow sport to dominate.
In the report we’ve looked to see what’s going on in other countries. We’ve looked at Finland, Canada and Slovenia. Yet again, we’ve looked at play, because along with PE, play has been very neglected. One of the things that was delightful about the press coverage was that they picked up the importance of play. And I was so pleased that James Opie, here tonight, wrote to The Times to point out its worth.
So thank you to everyone who has taken part in the writing of this report, for your insight enthusiasm and hard work and creating a pathway and a history for PE, as well as a legacy for the 21st century.
Dr Vicky Randall, University of Winchester
Good evening everyone. On behalf of the sponsors, may I take this opportunity to thank you all for being here this evening. Particular thanks to all who have been instrumental in the planning, writing and dissemination of the Primary PE and Sport Premium report and to Helen Clark who has expertly guided us through and all members of the working group who, without their insight and contributions, this report would have not have been possible.
I would like to express personal gratitude to my colleagues Greg Dryer, Kingston University and Sarah Williams, from Sheffield Hallam University, for supporting this venture. We represent a national network of primary physical educators across England who work tirelessly and passionately each day to influence the next generation of teachers going into our primary schools. They do this on very limited time and funding but with huge amounts of knowledge and expertise.
The report we are sharing and celebrating with you this evening came about from discussions within this network and for two reasons. Firstly, as sponsors, we felt that the voice of ITE, and specifically higher education, had been all but lost in decisions relating to primary PE, where in fact as educators of future teachers into the profession we have been well placed for years to project insights on the impact of the Premium though our research, extensive partnership with schools/wider partners and of course our own experience as teachers. Secondly, a level of investment such as the Primary PE and Sport Premium, we feel warrants serious and critical debate at the highest level.
Almost 6 years to the day, on the 12th March 2013, the Prime Minster of the time, David Cameron, announced the launch of the Primary PE and Sport Premium. We know this was not the first time the subject has received funding on this scale (many of you will remember the PESSYP and PESSCL strategies, that my colleague Dr Gerald Griggs coherently explained in our first meeting of this issue last September), but the Premium did bring to the public attention two defining features. One it has set precedence for funding into PE and that has now become entrenched as a feature of policy in PE and schools, across all major political parties, that I wonder what government will be brave enough to break this cycle? And the second, a promise of a legacy from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games that ensures funding now will impact upon generations for years to come. Since this announcement, almost no independent scrutiny of this money has been publicly made available.
So what impact has this the premium had? Without question, the £1.2 billion of investment has shaped and influenced primary PE in our schools, and I would even go so far as to say cultivated what being physical means to young people, how movement is perceived and valued in our schools and who are workforce are. Understandably any investment from government warrants a return at a societal level, therefore an improvement in health and developing a culture of sport are important and noble aims, but as an education profession we in danger of being consumed in this discourse and defined by theses means only. We also need to voice what we know primary physical education to be, champion that the most qualified people educate our children in the curriculum and ensure that educationally, learning how to move is not something that can be achieved solely though sport, competitive activities and daily running. I have to say at this point, that as a performance netball coach, a runner and sports volunteer, I am not suggesting these things are not important. They are all crucially important. I am merely suggesting we need to take this opportunity to look at our rich and diverse workforce and maximize skills and expertise and placing them where they are most needed and most appropriate. I believe a curriculum subject should offer the foundations of inclusive movement experiences and as the national curriculum says ‘the best of what is known’ in the subject. It should set the tone and ambition of what it means to be physically educated throughout the lifecourse.
The report has raised some crucial issues that I would like to highlight.
- The reduction in teachers accessing curriculum physical education over the last few years – and potentially de-skilled teaching workforce and created a privatised model of PE that can only be maintained as long as funding is maintained.
- Concerns over monitoring, accountability an auditing of funding – which we hear the Ofsted plan to step even further away from – where money is being used for what it should be, or plugging holes in other parts of the school budget.
- Despite PE receiving higher levels than any other subject (for example the next funded subject of Maths who receive £40 million over 4 years for Mastery) our status and place in the curriculum I would argue has remain unchanged.
However, our report has also highlighted some wonderful successes too. Schools have used the Premium to ameliorate inequalities in some of the most deprived areas in England, improved resourcing, and created opportunities for children to access physical activity and sport beyond the curriculum. We also have a diverse workforce of talented and skilled people from across the sector who are now placed to enrich all areas of physical learning in the school day. We now need to get the right people in the right place doing what they do best.
I am delighted this report has received so much attention. The scale of media coverage Helen has outlined has been fantastic and a testament to how much this topic means to our varying professions. The focus on play as an important place for movement in our primary schools has been a much needed point of discussion. Many thanks to Neil Coleman at OPAL for championing this and our guest speaker tonight James Opie. Engagement from our esteemed colleagues, including all who are on our panel tonight, has been a very welcome outcome of this work. I know the Minister is disappointed not to be here tonight, but I really valued Mr Brine’s support who has worked hard as our constituent MP for Winchester and Under Parliamentary Secretary for Health in these matters. For example, his work on the sugar tax levy and the doubling of the Premium has been of huge significance to us. I have also been delighted to receive a letter from Minister Nadhim Zahawi only yesterday to recognise this report and the work of the APPG. I would like finish up by sharing his thoughts with you [Vicky then read from the letter which can be viewed here].
James Opie, Author
So who am I?
My name is James Opie, and I am the eldest son of Iona and Peter Opie, authors who together pioneered the study of contemporary children’s culture in Britain.
The expectation of my forthcoming existence encouraged my parents to learn all about things parental. They discovered that no scholarly work on nursery rhymes had been published for a hundred years.
Writing the Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes over the next seven years led them on to examine the lore, language and games of school age children from 6 to 14, as it is handed down among themselves, independently of adults. The completion of this main body of work took another forty-six years.
As a boy introduced to boarding school at the age of eight, I took the alternative route to childhood networking, outside the state school system containing the subject of my parents studies. I learnt independence and self-reliance, but found it difficult to form friendships. My favourite toys were toy soldiers, clockwork trains and Meccano.
I became so interested in toy soldiers that I decided on military history as my degree course and the manufacturing or distribution of toys as a possible career. It turned out differently, and I ended up as editor of the Military and Aviation Book Society. In the meantime I wrote nine published books on toy soldiers and have spent forty years as an auctioneering cataloguer for them.
I would like to take advantage of this opportunity you have very kindly offered me by giving you a short account of how important I feel playground opportunities are towards developing character in children.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy
This well-known proverb was first recorded in 1659
Play may be defined as being ‘not serious’, but that does not mean we should not take play seriously.
Based on my own parents work, I would put forward the hypothesis that while parents impart to their children how to behave, the first practice and further learning of interaction with others takes place at school with their peers. This happens largely in the all too short fifteen-minute morning break in the playground.
From the 1970s, in Liss, Hampshire, my mother for fifteen years recorded weekly during this break ‘the kaleidoscopic vitality of the eager, laughing, shouting, devil-may-care people in the playground’.
At that time, all seemed well, as other opportunities for interaction were available during the school day, during lunch breaks and after school in public playgrounds and the safer streets and spaces.
Today it is not so certain, as safety considerations urge many parents to pick up children directly from school, and school extras and play on screens compete with the play habits of previous eras.
We cannot always leave the playful side of life to seep into young lives unannounced as a natural thing that will happen anyway. Venturing into the playground at school, and playing with newfound friends, is vastly important, the first time that a child becomes a person in their own right.
The need to foster free play, as well as organised sports and learning in schools, is as fundamental as education itself. If school is to prepare children for a full and happy life, then surely cramming the curriculum should not be the whole priority.
But the latest data from Outdoor Classroom Day campaign 2018 shows that 56% of English schools allow less than an hour a day for play.
The work from which these children will soon be asked to choose divides into that which is essential to the maintenance of society, like the NHS, and that which makes life more cheering, like the entertainment industry, both of which we are rather proud of in this country.
I wholeheartedly support any measures that enable children to be given the time to teach themselves among themselves. These amusements are those that inculcate initiative and curiosity, courage and the understanding of risk, individuality and sociability. They balance the satisfaction of the work ethic with the therapeutic play ethic in the forthcoming game of life.
Jack Shakespeare, Head of ukActive Kids:
It’s a real pleasure to be here so thank you very much for inviting me. Obviously as an organisation we took great interest in the report and from our point of view, it’s extremely timely for two reasons: 1) the impending comprehensive spending review; and 2) the School Sport Action Plan that Vicky alluded to, and the opportunity for this to feed into that.
I won’t profess to be a physical education expert. What we do is try to help, shape, lobby etc. for opportunities for children to be more active. We produced a report called “Generation Inactive 2” last September, where we took a very socio-economic viewpoint – looking at the environment around children that affect their attitudes towards physical activity and behaviour. MP Nadhim Zahawi referenced the Sport England Active Lives survey for children and young people, and it’s worth mentioning for anyone who doesn’t know, that on Thursday of next week (21/03/19) they’ll release the second round of outcomes, looking at the attitudes towards physical activity, so that’ll be interesting.
But from the first round, our interest lies in those 82% of children who aren’t physically active enough every day, or 57% who don’t get it across the week. Who are they, where do they come from, and why are they not active enough? Why is the current offer not appealing to them? The devil is in the detail: when you get into the data it’s children from low-income families, it’s certain ethnic minorities, it’s girls, it’s children with disabilities or learning difficulties who aren’t currently engaged by what’s on offer.
So I think that this is absolutely everyone’s business and that nature of our work is to work collaboratively. We’re made up of 4,000 members and partners and what we want to do is look at way that we can engage those children who aren’t currently engaged. Today’s about debate, hopefully, and we’re very privileged to be here at the heart of British politics today, so let’s get conversations going but let’s also recognise that we can probably get more done outside these premises than inside.
Loretta Sollars, Deputy Head, Children, Young People & Families Lifecourse Team, Public Health England:
I’d like to add a little bit in terms of the strategic context for the premium. When it was established in 2013, it was just one of the few things there to support PE and sport, but since then we’ve had the publication of the Government’s Sports Strategy from the Dept of Culture, Media and Sport, the Childhood Obesity Plan, which is a joint publication across many different Government Departments, and more recently last summer the second chapter of the Childhood Obesity Plan. That very much emphasised the importance of physical activity in the school setting, putting that ambition for primary schools to provide 30 minutes of activity, not just in PE lessons but across the whole school day, and very much seeing the importance of activity. Yes, from the Childhood Obesity Plan’s perspective it’s about reducing obesity but it’s also important for a whole host of other health reasons and because being physically active we know increases self-esteem and improves the wellbeing of children. There’s plenty of evidence to support all that.
So I think the positioning of the premium has changed and it’s embedded now across a number of strategies. As you heard from the letter that was quoted by Vicky just now, the Dept for Education support for the work of the premium is moving forward on how it needs to sit in the future publication of the School Sports Action Plan. I think the other key development that we’ve seen recently is the Government publishing plans for how health education, personal, social, relationships and sex education will be taught, and very much saying that health education is a statutory requirement of schools with effect from 2021 onwards. There again, it’s about the importance of educating children about the importance of physical activity and, as the report identifies, understanding the difference between three different things: sport, physical education and physical activity. It’s about how they can all work together and how we can support and promote all of them across the whole school day, within the teaching of PE but also in the broader curriculum and extra-curricular time.
So thank you for producing this report. It builds on other reports and it will be a good source of evidence and good practice for us. I’m really glad that we’ve now got somewhere else other than Finland to talk about! We look forward to working with you in the future.
Steve McCabe then asked two other report sponsors if they would like to say anything before we moved on to the Q&A.
Greg Dryer, Kingston University Centre for Physical Education, Sport and Activity: I would just like to say a word about Vicky’s relentless energy in driving this forward. She’s been very quiet about it but the reason the Primary PE Teacher education community is growing is entirely due to Vicky. So thanks very much Vicky!
Sarah Williams, Sheffield Hallam University: I would just like to echo that and to say thanks for involving us in this. It’s been an absolute pleasure to work alongside you all. We were honoured to be involved with this and Sheffield Institute of Education is looking for more ways that we can start to inform practice in schools so this opportunity was a great one – thank you.
Questions and Comments:
Giles Platt, London & SE Primary PE Health and Wellbeing Development Association: At a time when an aspirational new think tank – the centre for children’s physical development, health and wellbeing – has been established to advocate change and support best practice in our field, how does the Government plan to guarantee essential accountability, governance and scrutiny within publicly funded national schools sports strategies, that have been nowhere near effective, honest and transparent across the last 20 years or so? And is there also a need for the APPG to insist upon effective representation at Ministerial meetings that concern the PE premium, especially when many senior national bodies representing the subject have long been fully aware of the many issues contained in the report?
Vicky Randall: I think that’s fair comment. I think we know on the ground that there is a lot going on that is very difficult to bring to effect, and it’s managing the balance between critiquing policy where then money just gets pulled away if we’re saying that these are really problematic issues. It goes back to what I was saying earlier that if we don’t know how to spend it as a profession then should we have the funding? So it’s a very difficult line to tread, I am aware of that, and I’m very glad that this report was not just showboating all the wonderful, lovely things that are happening out there, because there are things going on that we see day to day in our practice, and I see it with my school governor hat on: I’ve had to bring my own school to account for spending it on capital expenditure. So there are real issues that are happening and the conversations that we have had with Ofsted about this have been very much sympathetic to their resourcing. They are going in for 1-day inspections and they have a whole heap of things to do around accountability – and those schools that are legacy-outstanding schools won’t have even been inspected in the 6 years since the premium was introduced. There are some complex things here and I really don’t know the answer to how we hold accountability. There is probably a response that there are other stresses in schools, staffing budgets, expertise, confidence, teacher workloads – but I do take the point that we need to be more effective and accountable.
Giles Platt: We have the weaker schools and those schools abusing the premium being graded by Ofsted at a similar rating as those schools that are being honest. That’s just not fair. And the second thing is, we’re not using local expert infrastructure anything like enough to support the reporting back. They have absolutely no say at all, and that would rectify the issue very easily.
Helen Clark: What we wanted to do in the report was get it out there – the good and the bad. Some of the instances of concern included in the report were supplied by Giles so we were very grateful for his input. It’s an important issue.
Gerald Griggs, University Campus of Football Business: I’m really honoured myself to have my own work in there because the point about writing and conducting research is for it to mean something and to do something rather than just sit on a shelf. Picking up on Giles’s point and Vicky’s response, ultimately, people have to care. If they don’t care, nothing happens. This week we care about knife crime and next week we might care about dog bites. When we care about something the attention goes there and money goes there. It is concerning that we are not now including this in inspections going forward. Does that send a message that we care about this? Then that comes back to the angle that underpins some of Giles’s comments – that money has been given to the problem, but that’s it. The political answer is often “Well, record spending …!” Well, yes, but lack of record of accountability.
My one hope out of all of this is not to hear a senior academic say, as one did once say to me, “I’m just getting bored with this because I’ve been here 25 years ago and we’re still in the same place”. Ultimately I hope this will bring people to a common ground that we can all buy into.
Sheila Forster, Fitmedia: I’ve just come back today from a Healthy Schools session in one of the deprived London Boroughs, and there was 53% obesity in children, and 59% of the children did not do 30 minutes of daily activity. This is the reality. We’ve got the Primary premium, and our session was to talk to them about how to evaluate and monitor their spend. It’s quite clear that there are a lot of activities going on but look at these damning figures! This is just one borough in London where in spite of having all this money there are children who do not have fundamental movement skills, i.e. they cannot run, jump or catch, and 59% not doing 30 minutes of activity a day. The reality is, yes, it’s important that we look at teachers, but in the meantime while we are looking at how we can get teachers up and ready, we are seeing bigger and bigger growth in terms of obesity and lack of fundamental movement skills in children.
So what is the funding for? Is it to help teachers to get better skills? Is it to help children now? At the moment I’m concerned that we’re seeing figures like this in spite of the funding.
Joel Cohen, Sport England: Last October we at Sport England published the first ever “Active Lives” children’s and young people’s survey, and really built a solid and authoritative grounding on which to echo that there is a serious challenge when it comes to young people’s activity. As has already been mentioned, there will be a new release next Thursday. This is a long-standing project between Dept for Education, the Dept of Health and Social Care, and our own department, Dept for Culture, Media and Sport, in order to start to account for the attitudes of young people and the motivations and behaviours that drive them to participate effectively in activity and to gain a lifelong passion for something that will sustain them throughout their lives. That’s our focus. We’d like to see young people taking part in sport and activities across the board, in school and out of it, so we recognise the need for accountability of the premium and it’s really good to see it highlighted here.
To ask a specific question, where there are really positive instances of the premium being used well, at what kind of level of the school are decisions about how it is spent being taken? And what level of influence or connection with the community is there, in particular for things like extra-curricular activity?
Pippa Bagnall, Resilience & Co: I do motivational speaking around “resilience” with any group of people, for example different groups in the NHS. My background is nursing and I campaigned vigorously for children’s health in schools back in the 1980s and 1990s and it’s so frustrating that some of the issues that were identified then have not been addressed – hence obesity. I have a particular interest in health and wellbeing and I’m very pleased to be part of this group as I think our reports are a fantastic resource, well-referenced and well-linked in to other forms of information. Is it time to think about how to bring them together, because physical activity for an obese child can be very threatening, and I wonder if there’s a way we can now move towards perhaps talking about health and wellbeing and the school community working with parents and other people in the community to work with health and wellbeing: it’s a whole community thing.
Neil Coleman, Outdoor Play and Therapy: We’ve working in 400 or so schools in the UK and around the world and have helped half a million children to be more active. I’ve heard resilience, attitude, self-esteem, enjoyment all spoken about. Jack was at one of our schools on Monday and hopefully saw all those things in action. I’d like to make a plea. Can we not call it the “School Sports Action Plan”? The whole point of our report was that sport is smothering everything so can we call it the “Physical Activity Action Plan for Schools” or something like that? That would help to widen it out. I fear we’re losing sight of the need for all children to play. It’s no surprise that in the 40 years that we’ve seen an increase in obesity and inactivity on the one side and mental health on the other is exactly the same period of time that there has been 90% decline in time for children to play outside. The two cannot be unconnected.
I’ve also heard Vicky say that the curriculum needs to be “the best that is known”. 20% of every school day is playtime – that’s thousands and thousands of hours in a year. What we do in our schools is put in a curricular lead for play, for that one-fifth of the school day. We help them with policy, strategy, action plans, and help them deliver amazing play times for their children. So I get really angry when I see £320 million being frittered away ineffectively as it has been since 2012. I know there have been some good things but in general it has not been well-used.
I see play as being integral to school life, alongside PE, sport and everything else in the curriculum. They are not separate things and the child that comes out of school deserves a great play experience. My question is, why isn’t play appreciated and valued in the same way that sport is?
Nick Palmer, Federation of Sports and Play Associations: We all feel the same here, we all care, we’re all passionate. The problem is, we’re in an environment where we don’t really get priority when it comes to what’s important. You mentioned the status of physical activity in schools, for example compared to maths. My question is this – rather than this room, how do we penetrate the room downstairs?
Greg Dryer, The Centre for Physical Education, Sport and Activity at Kingston University: Picking up on a few things. The current offer doesn’t seem to be delivering on the outcomes it was designed for. I apologise in advance to Loretta – I know you’re standing in at short notice. Vicky and Helen spoke about bringing PE into the limelight and providing a voice. The voice should absolutely be driving engagement: if we’re going to get children to engage with physical activity, they’ve got to fall in love with it. They’ve got to fall in love with their bodies moving in various contexts and that has to be thrilling and to evoke all the emotions. It’s got to be utterly exciting, and that’s a high aspiration and very, very challenging. So when the discourse gets swamped with health outcomes, we take our eye off the processes and the individuals that are supposed to be at the heart of what is going on. That individual is not just a functional little machine that we get to run for 15 minutes a day to show that they are being “active”. If you can show me that they are falling in love with physical activity by running round their playground I will bow in honour of your rigour, but if we are doing to say that we are getting kids active then I would question that. I would question, Loretta, language that talks about “educating children on the importance of physical activity” because I don’t – after a career in this area – know how that happens. People who fall in love with physical activity don’t do it because somebody tells them that its important. This is an emotional and sensational driver and you only get that from very high quality experiences. The pupils at Whitgift and Eton have exceptionally high indicators and exceptionally high quality in all aspects of their physical environment, but you cannot compare how those environments shape one falling in love with physical activity. This is not positioned or framed entirely in the realms of KPIs or what we are educating. If we’re spending money on telling people to be active we will carry on frittering money away. We have to be much more forensic and we cannot take our eye off the key determinant of the quality experience, which is the person who is facilitating the experience. I can’t see any way that we can make an impact other than working through the quality of the workforce.
And my last point is that I get increasingly uncomfortable at people talking about what’s going on there. I was at a conference last week and I looked around the room to see who is in the workforce. Now we do mention this in the report: the workforce does not tend to come from the very communities that we’re meant to be understanding. All too often when I look around at policy-makers and practitioners I feel that they are so distant from those communities. Where is the voice for us to shape policy? I’m not sure we’ll ever get that voice through if we remain a health-driven area of a young person’s life.
And if we think sport leads to health outcomes I would encourage anyone to come to my children’s rugby club and look at many of my peers – dads – who have played rugby all their lives, and you tell me that they’re in good shape and they’re healthy! There’s very little correlation.
Phil Royal, Secretariat: Where else does the Government spend £320m pa without demanding detailed accountability?
Vicky Randall: I’ll try to bring a number of those points together. What you’ve all presented is the complexity of the issue and we’ve conflated a lot of these into one. We’ve taken health outcomes and strategic policy with education, with sporting culture . . . and we’ve bundled it all together. To be fair, this conflation has always been there within our sector. Sheila mentioned the teachers, and who’s leading this? We know that in schools the reason teachers has been foregrounded – quite rightly – is that they make up the majority of the workforce, they make the decisions on the day-to-day stuff and a lot of the positive case studies that we see have come from these people who have been put in positions of teaching responsibility, subject leadership roles and so on, and by default they are typically teachers. So maybe we need to take a look going forward to say that if we have all these aspects in our primary school space, maybe that’s too much for a teacher to do. Maybe we should leave the teachers in charge of the educational decision-making around curriculum and pedagogy, and maybe we need to have more health professionals making the decisions about health and working alongside those, and maybe we need – as some schools have done, with the premium – brought-in people who run the sport, extra-curricular and enrichment activities. I think it’s too much to put all on a teacher’s head to navigate all of this. In other curriculum areas, a teacher can just manage their curriculum area. So if we want all these things in schools we possibly need people other than the PE co-ordinator or teacher, because they just haven’t got the time for it all.
Sheila Forster: Can I just say that, although it’s interesting, that will put PE back as a Cinderella subject with people other than teachers looking after it.
Vicky Randall: No, I don’t mean that. Teachers absolutely should be looking after physical education, but if you’re a physical education subject leader and you’ve been told that you have to lead the assessment and pedagogy and curriculum, and by the way you’re also managing the PE and Sport Premium which is asking you to run after-school and lunchtime clubs and manage the wider workforce coming in . . . it is a schools management problem but the job has become so big and what I hear from many subject leaders who have graduated from us and who are now in these roles is that although they are confident with the PE part of their job, they need help with looking at the qualifications and assurance of sports pitches, organising off-site competitions, running breakfast clubs, and the statutory health stuff, and so on.
Giles Platt: There’s one curriculum position that’s not been mentioned in any of this so far, and that’s PHSE. Core unit 1 – far too many recommendations, especially from PHE, no statutory practice . . . and there are so many primary schools that don’t even have a PHSE subject leader.
James Opie; I’m no expert and I’ve come into this entirely from the outside, so I’ve just got a couple of things to mention that I’ve been trying to absorb. So many things are so well-intentioned. I don’t think politicians go into politics for any other reason than to improve life, but the problem is, how is it done? I have a quote from an anonymous Australian child who says, “If I can’t choose, then it’s not play”. People need to get invested in doing these things and the main people who need to get invested are the teachers, because without their investment you won’t get results. People hate being told what to do so it’s much more about getting people to see that that’s the way forward.
When I was involved in educational publishing we used to take vans full of books to choose from, and teachers seemed to be doing their own thing with their own curriculum, and this creativity was the most fun part of being a teacher. So if we can get people to be creative with the various opportunities that they find and if all we need to do is to tell them the enormous and varied options they have, and they will find all the different things that may engage the various people they have to deal with. And we can start to address obesity by getting the kids engaged in any kind of activity. By the way, I hate to say this, but gym classes only generate about two-thirds of the steps generated by children who are playing outside doing their own thing. I’m not saying that both don’t have a part because sport has the prestige and gym is a learning function, so everything has its role, but sometimes there is a communications problem with children not knowing the point of doing something, e.g. jumping on and off a horse in a gym class. We should be able to communicate in an age-appropriate way with children so that they understand why they are doing something, and if we can spend some of this huge lump of money on communication it will be money well spent.
Jack Shakespeare: I was at a school in Lewisham on Monday and witnessed play that was very risky, lots of fun, and what stood out was that it was driven by a very enthusiastic and passionate head teacher who had installed a culture of institutional resilience. Every time they came across a barrier, such as why they shouldn’t install a water park, they got over it rather than just giving in to it. It was just great – but how do you bottle that? Sometimes I feel that things are accomplished in spite of the system rather than because of it.
Addressing Sheila’s point, I don’t think that there’s any coincidence at all that those children with higher levels of obesity and physical inactivity come from deprived areas. I wonder if there is a question mark over the current modelling of the Primary PE and Sport Premium in that we might need to consider some kind of universal proportionalism. While it needs to be an offer for all, children living in more deprived areas are in greater need, perhaps.
I agree with Greg about the workforce. I’ve come from the workforce and now work with the workforce, and sometimes on behalf of the workforce, and those quality experiences are absolutely fundamental. It’s also necessary to recognise that there’s a much broader spectrum of people working in this space and they are all important. And going back to my earlier point, where is the voice for the under-represented children – the 57% who don’t get enough physical activity every week? Who is representing them? Going back to this report, schools with well-delivered, engaging, rich and positive physical education programmes can be a catalyst for that. As Giles said earlier, how do we get this into the Schools Action Plan? How does this group make its voice heard? Well, let’s take that letter from Nadhim Zahawi and nail it to the door down there! In my experience, that’s the only way you’re going to do it because Government Departments only work at two paces: slow and panic-stations.
Loretta Sollars: I’ll try to be brief as we are over time, but there are so many people here with a massive interest, masses of experience, different views and expertise around this topic and I’m sure we could sit here debating for as long as they are debating Brexit downstairs!
It’s a really complex subject, but at the same time, really straightforward. So we’ve talked this evening about how we measure and evaluate the premium. Do we measure what it gets spent on or how effectively it’s spent? Are we measuring the outcomes in terms of PE or physical activity or health? Should we be measuring whether or not we’re affecting children’s attitudes to sport and physical activity? Somewhere along the line we have got to make some decisions that are realistic and practical from a monitoring perspective and also from a school’s perspective. There’s been a theme running through around the importance of the teaching workforce having appropriate skills, while at the same time we’ve also heard people saying, “just let the kids go out there and play and enjoy it – that’s more important”.
Greg, you challenged me to say how you could get kids running round a playground continuously enjoying it. If you follow the Daily Mile Twitter account and you will see this all the time. Where it works well, the children are doing it because they enjoy it and they are socialising with each other and it’s not something that is guided and led with any tight hand by a teacher.
I’m just trying to say that this issue is really complex. There are all sorts of contradictions that we could debate for ever but actually from what I’m hearing, we have a great bunch of people who will continue to input to the School Sport Action Plan.
After some further discussion, questions and comments, the meeting closed at 7.30 pm.