Sport sector tells incoming government: ‘Focus on children and young people'

A number of prominent figures in the sport and physical activity sector have called on the incoming government to prioritise the health and fitness of children and young people.

Calling today’s young people the “least active generation in history”, ukactive research director Dr Steven Mann said it was incumbent for those making policy to roll out fitness measurement programmes to hold schools to account over the physical fitness of their pupils.

His comments were echoed by Sport and Recreation Alliance chief executive Emma Boggis, who suggested that physical literacy should be as important to children as numeracy and literacy, and that schools were ultimately responsible.

The recommendation forms part of the manifesto the organisation has put together ahead of the General Election on 8 June.

“We don’t believe a child should leave primary school without reaching a basic minimum standard of physical literacy, and all children should have access to high quality physical education and sport,” Boggis told delegates at the Why Sport? Conference in London.

“Schools should be held accountable through existing assessment framework. And although this is different to the present government’s approach of not telling schools what to do and letting good headteachers make good decisions, we think it’s too important an issue to be an element of choice.”

The Alliance chief caveated that teachers should receive more support and advice about where to invest primary school premium money they receive through the government, adding that the organisation has heard “anecdotal” reports that some teachers were worried about how they would spend the extra money garnered through the soft drinks levy, which will add around £420m annually to the school sport budget.

The soft drinks levy, and the decision to expand Sport England’s remit to account for the participation of children over five, has been implemented to fight against the growing childhood obesity epidemic.

But Ian Stephens, chair of the Local Government Association (LGA) Culture, Tourism and Sport board, didn’t think the measures went far enough and that children should be exposed to sport and physical activity from the day they are born.

He said: “The earlier we get going on the active families (getting parents to expose children to physical activity at a young age) the earlier we get going on getting active lives. We need to pursue that and that’s the message I’m taking back to central government.

“It’s not about getting them when they’re five when they are moving on to their first year of primary school. We need to be in there prior to that so it’s not looked on as a chore but part of a way of life. Then we will see a change.”

First published, written by Matthew Campelli, 17 May 2017