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Equal access to sport in schools ends centuries of sex discrimination

UK government declares that girls and boys should have the same access to sports in schools
It has also provided £600m funding to improve PE and sports in primary schools – 7-9 year olds are the least physically active age group
A kitemark scheme called the School Games Mark will reward schools providing parity of provision
£57m will be given to Opening School Facilities initiative, which aims to keep sports facilities of 1,350 schools open outside of school hours
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The UK government has declared that boys and girls should have equal access to sports in schools, and is asking schools to dedicate at least two hours of curriculum time to PE per week.

A £600m package will also be channeled into improving PE and sports in primary schools. Those providing parity of provision will be rewarded through the kitemark scheme, called the School Games Mark.

The announcement comes in response to an open letter sent by the Lionesses women's football team last year, following their win at the UEFA European Women's Football Championship and the success of the Football Association’s #LetGirlsPlay campaign, which was launched on International Day of the Girl in October 2021.

“Last year the Lionesses’ victory changed the game,” said prime minister Rishi Sunak. “Young girls know when they take to the pitch that football is for them and, thanks to the Lionesses, they too could be a part of the next generation to bring it home for their country.

“We want schools to build on this legacy and give every girl the opportunity to do the same sports as boys, as well as provide a minimum of two hours of PE. This means every child can benefit from regular exercise and we are proud to provide them with the support needed to do so.”

In addition, up to £57m will be dedicated to a three-year Opening School Facilities initiative, which aims to keep sports facilities of around 1,350 schools open outside school hours. The work will be driven by Active Partnerships, which leads a consortium of organisations, including, UK Active, Youth Sport Trust and Street Games.

“We're delighted that schools across England will receive a share of this new three-year investment to help them open up their sporting facilities outside of the normal school day,” said Andy Taylor, chief executive for Active Partnerships National Team.

“Working with our consortia partners Street Games, UK Active and the Youth Sport Trust, our network of 43 Active Partnerships will support schools to develop and deliver their plans, working together to identify those local communities facing the greatest inequalities and helping give them access to more varied opportunities to be physically active.”

Priority will be given to projects that encourage women and girls to be more active, help disadvantaged and culturally diverse communities, and those supporting special educational needs, disabilities, or long-term health conditions.

UK Active’s Research Institute will be the evaluation partner of the Opening School Facilities programme, which ties in with UK Active’s own Open Doors campaign with Nike. Research by UK Active, as part of this project, found that 39 per cent of sporting facilities in England are locked behind school doors during holiday time. During the summer break it discovered that children on free school meals lose up to 80 per cent of their cardio fitness levels.

“This commitment from the Department for Education is an important step in our shared mission to make physical activity and sport accessible for every child and young person,” said Huw Edwards, CEO of UK Active. “Opening up school gates during out of school times can unlock access and opportunity to participate in sport and physical activity, providing children and young people with safe spaces to play, socialise, and ultimately, to lead happier, healthier lives.

“The UK Active Research Institute is the proud evaluation partner of the Opening School Facilities programme and we look forward to working with the Active Partnerships Network to ensure we maximise this opportunity to engage children successfully.”

The package also includes a new digital tool for PE and sport premium to help schools optimise funding and £22m for two years of further funding for the School Games Organiser network (SGO), which supports 28,000 competitive school sport events that provides over 2m participation opportunities for children.

“I will do all I can to help address inequality in sport and today’s announcement is a huge boost that will help give girls greater opportunities in schools across England,” said culture secretary Lucy Frazer. “The Lionesses have undoubtedly inspired the next generation and it is vital that we make sure we have the structures in place at schools and the grassroots to capitalise on that and drive up participation for all the positive life benefits it brings.

“Having made £1bn available to ensure the survival of the sport and leisure sector during the pandemic, we are now setting a new standard for ensuring children and young people have the opportunity to enjoy healthy and active lives both inside and outside of school.”

Sport England’s latest Active Lives Children and Young People Survey showed that 58.2 per cent of children do not meet the chief medical officers’ guidelines of doing 60 minutes of physical activity per day and, overall, girls do less exercise than boys. Data revealed that the lowest levels were in children aged 7-9, from low affluence families, and those of Black, Asian and other ethnicities.

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The UK government has declared that boys and girls should have equal access to sports in schools, and is asking schools to dedicate at least two hours of curriculum time to PE per week.
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