In this article from the March/April 2016 edition of Governing Matters, Dominic Judge, assistant director for schools at the Youth Sport Trust, looks at the role of governors in ensuring PE and sport continue to feature in a broad and balanced curriculum.
Many governors and school leaders are becoming concerned that school performance measures and the importance of the EBacc at secondary level could have a narrowing effect on the experience students receive in school, including the time allocated to core PE. So how do governing boards take a strategic role in supporting their own headteacher to meet Ofsted’s requirement to deliver a broad and balanced curriculum?
Most governors recognise the primary importance of students securing good grades in academic subjects. They are a passport to further study and high-earning careers, but so too are the broader employability and character traits that young people develop through sport and which are so desired by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).
Equipping young people of all ages with the skills and resilience to achieve in life has also been strongly championed by the secretary of state for education, Nicky Morgan, in her commitment to ‘character education’.
Why are PE and sport important?
At the Youth Sport Trust we have a passionate belief that high-quality PE and sport can have a significant effect on students’ wellbeing and employability as well as their academic achievement. It is not that any one of these is at the expense of the others; they are all necessary if our students are to achieve their best.
A growing body of evidence in the UK and America links time spent in PE and sport to improved academic performance. Perhaps more importantly, there is evidence that this correlation extends beyond the school leaving age, with a lifelong habit of sport leading to higher average career earnings (7-8% higher), making people both healthier and wealthier.
Part of the vital importance of retaining PE and sport in a broad and balanced curriculum is the many ways it can help tackle barriers to students’ learning. Headteachers tell us that young people face many complex issues that stop them achieving; from unprecedented levels of mental health problems (manifested in self-harm and eating disorders) to high levels of obesity and feelings of low confidence and self-worth – often stemming from the pressures of social media.
PE and sport are powerful tools to address these and improve academic performance at the same time. The Youth Sport Trust, for example, works with many schools in a number of ways such as:
embedding a character education and confidence-building approach in curriculum PE (My Personal Best)
using athletes and their unique approach to performance sport to help students learn to manage exam stress and perform at their best (Get to the Start Line)
improving students’ physical health and body confidence, for example, our Girls Active programme has made girls more positive about PE and school
approaches to ‘active learning’ in primary schools that have improved boys’ behaviour, attendance and numeracy and literacy scores
So it is important that governors play a role in ensuring the curriculum is broad and balanced if schools are to continue to achieve academically on a long-term and sustainable basis. Most governors have taken on the role because of their commitment to ensuring young people receive a balanced education for success in life. It is governors who can often take a strategic look (above the fierce daily demands felt by school leaders around achieving academic targets) in order to help schools remember that the two remain indelibly linked.
Questions to ask
How much PE does each of our student groups do every week and is it high quality?
What value do we place on PE and school sport and is it something we market to make us the ‘school of choice’ locally?
Do we have a strategy for how our PE and sport contribute to the wellbeing, leadership and academic achievement of our students?
For more information on getting the most out of sports premium funding, visit the PE and Sports Premium section of the Knowledge Centre.