Equal access to all sports in PE for boys and girls

On International Women’s Day the government is setting out new standards for equal access to sports, making it clear that girls and boys should be offered the same sports during PE and extracurricular time in schools.

The package announced today aims to help to boost equal opportunities in school sport both inside and outside the classroom, delivering on promises made by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Education Secretary Gillian Keegan to the Women’s Euro 22 winners the Lionesses.

This follows on from the success of the FA’s #LetGirlsPlay campaign which is working to change perceptions and make sure girls get the chance to play football within the school curriculum, as well as at breaktime, after school and at local clubs.

The campaign was launched by the Lionesses squad and the FA after the England Women’s team’s success at the Euro 22 tournament last year.

Schools that successfully deliver equal opportunities for girls and boys will be rewarded through the School Games Mark, which will assess parity of provision in PE and extracurricular sport. 

Schools are also being asked to offer a minimum of two hours curriculum PE time and the government will provide support to schools on how to do this through the upcoming refresh of the School Sport Action Plan.

Alongside this work, Ofsted will be publishing a report into PE in the coming months, which will inform future inspections and set out what they believe is possible in terms of offering high quality PE and equal access to sports.

This is backed by a package of cross-government funding to help boost sport and activities both inside and outside school hours including the confirmation of over £600 million in funding over the next two academic years for the PE and Sport Premium and £22 million for the School Games Organisers (SGO) network.

In response to the announcement, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “Last year the Lionesses’ victory changed the game. 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.” 

Adding to this, education secretary, Gillian Keegan, said: “As someone who grew up in Liverpool, a city dominated by its love for football, I know first-hand the power of sport in bringing people together – whether on or off the pitch.

“Every child – girl or boy – should have access to high quality sport and activities. Not only are these opportunities great for both physical and mental health – but also for all those other skills young people will need throughout their life like teamwork and communication.

“Today, on International Women’s Day, we are breaking down the barriers some children face to access sport and building on the Lionesses’ legacy to ensure girls have the same access to all their favourite sports as boys.”

England women’s captain, Leah Williamson, said: “The success of the summer has inspired so many young girls to pursue their passion for football.

“We see it as our responsibility to open the doors for them to do so and this announcement makes that possible.

“This is the legacy that we want to live much longer than us as a team. On behalf of all the Lionesses players, we’d like to thank our teammate Lotte Wubben-Moy as a driving force behind this transformational change.

“We couldn’t be prouder to stand alongside her and we all look forward to seeing the impact this legacy creates.”

Currently only 67 per cent of all schools and 41 per cent of secondary schools offer football equally to girls in PE lessons and only 46 per cent of schools provide the same extracurricular opportunities as boys, according to the Football Associations’ website

Commenting on the announcement to give equal access to sports for girls and boys, chief executive for Active Partnerships National Team, Andy Taylor, said: “We are 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. 

“Working with our consortia partners StreetGames, ukactive 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 help give them access to more varied opportunities to be physically active. 

“We aim to engage with 1350 schools throughout the funding programme.”

The full package being announced today includes:

·      Equal access to sports in school – setting out that offering girls and boys the same sports, where it is wanted is the new standard.

·      Delivering a minimum two hours of curriculum PE –with more support being offered through a refreshed School Sport Action Plan.

·      Expansion of the Schools Games Mark – to reward parity of provision for girls and equal access to sports- this kitemark scheme, delivered by the Youth Sport Trust, recognises schools that create positive sporting experiences across all sports for young people, supporting them to be active for 60 minutes a day.

·      Over £600 million across the next two years for the PE and Sport Premium – a funding commitment to improve the quality of PE and sports in primary schools to help children benefit from regular activity.

·      A new digital tool for PE and Sport Premium – to support schools in using the funding to the best advantage of their pupils.  

·      £22 million for two years of further funding for the School Games Organiser network (SGO) – Annually the 450 strong SGO workforce supports 2.2m participation opportunities for children including 28,000 competitive school sport events.

·      Up to £57 million funding for the open sports facilities programme – to open up more school sport facilities outside of school hours especially targeted at girls, disadvantaged pupils and pupils with special educational needs.    

Being active in childhood is vital to long-term wellbeing and physical and mental health. The government hope this investment will help more children to keep fit, have a healthy start to life and will help save the NHS money in the years ahead.

Up to £57 million in funding will be used to allow selected schools around England to keep their sport facilities open for longer for after-school activities, especially targeted at girls, disadvantaged children, and those with special educational needs.

This work will be led by Active Partnerships who are leading a consortium, which includes Youth Sport Trust, ukactive and StreetGames, and will benefit up to 1,350 schools.

The PE and Sport Premium is designed to help children get an active start in life by improving the quality of PE and sports in primary schools. Headteachers can choose how best to spend this funding including on teacher training, offering more opportunities for pupils to take part in competition and widening the range of sports for both boys and girls including football, tennis, cricket and hockey.

Schools will receive updated guidance this summer setting out how to use the funding to the best advantage of their pupils. A new digital tool will be introduced for schools to report on their spending of the PE and Sport Premium and allow the government to understand where further guidance is needed.

The government is also providing security for the School Games Organisers (SGO) network, with the commitment of funding until the end of the summer term 2025. The 450 strong SGO workforce offers over two million opportunities to participate in competitive sports. The programme delivers on the government’s ambition to ensure that all children and young people, no matter their background, can be active.

This is part of the government’s commitment to improve access to sport for everyone. £300 million is being used to build or improve thousands of grassroots football and multi-sport facilities across the UK by 2025.  

Commenting on the announcement, Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said“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. 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 £1 billion 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.”

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