School Sport and PE Provision

School Sport and PE remain a controversial area of sports policy. The scraping of the County Sports Partnership, a key Labour sports policy promise, under the Coalition Government to allow schools to spend their new School Sport Premium funding as they want, continues to create political debate. Furthermore, with alarming rises in the levels of child obesity, ongoing arguments about the place of sport and activity within a crowded curriculum and increasing issues with holiday hunger and inactivity, how sport, fitness and PE should be undertaken within and around the the education system, remains a significant issue in sports policy.

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 will be allocated through the current arrangements for schools capital funding.

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 will be assessed
  • A working group will advise on how to ensure no child leaves school without a minimum swimming capability
  • The Government will seek to better understand the drop –off in engagement from primary to secondary, particularly for those groups most affected such as girls

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

Page content sourced from House of Commons Library.

Useful Resources

National Curriculum in England: physical education programmes of study (GOV UK, 11 September 2013)

PE provision in secondary schools in 2018 (Youth Sport Trust, February 2018)

School Sport in England (House of Commons Briefing Paper, 1 March 2017)

School sport participation and the Olympic legacy (The Smith Institute, May 2013)

School Sport Partnerships (House of Commons Library, 10 September 2015)

Sporting Future: A New Strategy for an Active Nation (HM Government, 14 December 2015)

The future of school and community sport (The Smith Institute, September 2013)