Government agrees £320m PE and school sport funding after high-profile campaign by activists
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Government agrees £320m PE and school sport funding after high-profile campaign by activists

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The government has confirmed that the £320m Physical Education and Sport Premium will be made available for the next school year (2020-21), starting this September.

The Premium provides a ring-fenced, top-up to school funding to ensure every primary school-age child gets at least 60 minutes of physical activity a week.

First introduced in 2013, the scheme had not been formalised for the forthcoming school year, leaving schools in limbo in terms of their planning for PE and sport.

In addition to the new funding, the government has promised that PE and Sport Premium funding from the current academic year (2019-20) schools were unable to use as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, can be brought forward for use in the next academic year.

A number of sports bodies, youth organisations and charities had mounted a campaign to have the funding confirmed. The campaign was backed by athletes including Olympic champion Sir Mo Farah, Hannah Cockroft, Lawrence Dallaglio and rugby star Manu Tuilagi – who signed an open letter to the government calling for the premium to be renewed.

In the letter, they argued that PE and Sport Premium has “never been more needed” after “massive disruption” to pupils’ physical activity during the COVID-19 lockdown.

The funding was confirmed yesterday, Sunday 5 July, by education secretary, Gavin Williamson, with allocations to schools determined by a formula based on pupil numbers. A school with one year-1 class will receive roughly £18,000 per year.

Williamson said: "During these challenging times, the importance of keeping active has become clearer to me than ever before. Especially when you consider how it benefits not just our physical health, but also our ability to pay attention, our mood and our mental health.

"Every family will have had a different experience of the pandemic, and I know many children will have missed time spent outdoors with their friends – that’s why it’s so important that ahead of a full return to school in September, schools get the certainty they need to prepare their PE and sports activities."

One of the most vocal campaigners for the funding to be continued has been the youth sport trust.

The charity's CEO Ali Oliver said: Many primary schools will be using this funding to improve provision of PE and sport and to develop teachers’ confidence to deliver it, positioning PE and sport at the core of schools’ work to improve pupils’ health, wellbeing and ability to learn."

Tim Hollingsworth, CEO of Sport England said: “We welcome the confirmation of the investment. It’s never been more needed, given the massive disruption to children’s activity levels during lockdown, with our research showing the number of children meeting the chief medical officer’s guidelines has dropped from almost 47 per cent to 19 per cent.

"Over a third of children say they’ve had less chance to be active because schools are shut.

“When schools return, this welcomed investment will play an important part in encouraging schools to prioritise PE and getting children active, which is important, not just for their physical health but also because being active builds mental resilience and helps children achieve academically.”

ukactive, a vocal advocate for the continued funding, said: "Schools sit at the heart of communities and are critical settings for supporting children’s health and wellbeing.

"This continued funding will enable schools and their wider workforce to maximise and diversify the physical activity options available, supporting children to be as active as possible before, during, and after the school day."

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The government has yielded to a high-profile campaign and rubber-stamped a £320m investment in the Physical Education and Sport Premium for the next school year (2020-21), starting this September.