The Department for Education (DfE) has commissioned a piece of research aimed at understanding how primary and secondary schools responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the major findings of the report was that close to 40% of schools had reduced PE hours to make way for core subjects such as English.
Support for physical activity has been clear across the government with investments made in primary school sports provision, public, and school facilities. However, many pupils have suffered the loss of physical activity despite strong connections between improved academic attainment, mental and physical wellbeing.
Many schools cited logistical reasons for not holding subjects such as PE and Music. Subjects that require greater sanitation of equipment often suffered when teachers and students were absent. The research carried out as a collaboration between Ipsos MORI, Sheffield Hallam University, and the Centre for Education Youth (CEYF) has been designed to understand what further support they may need.
Year 1 findings detailed some of the challenges and how they responded:
- The substantial differences in progress between pupils, many noting that pupils’ emotions and mental health were a clear issue.
- As the year progressed, pupils showed changes both socially and emotionally, with academic progress gaps also increasing.
- Those from disadvantaged backgrounds were severely impacted by low attendance or the inability to engage well with home-schooling.
Alison Oliver, CEO of Youth Sport Trust added on hearing the report:
“The findings today from the DfE Recovery Research are of huge concern and should prompt immediate action in us all. Young people are not taking part in enough physical activity and many will have returned to school having done no physical activity at all during the holidays. We know that schools in England have already seen significant cuts to the amount of PE on the school timetable with 42,285 hours of PE lost from state-funded secondary schools between 2011/12 and 2020/21.
PE and sport are not a ‘nice to have’ in children’s lives, and today more than ever they are essential to their physical, social, and emotional development. We ask the government to not delay on delivering the detail of a joined-up School Sport and Activity Action Plan and move much more quickly.”
To find out more about the report, see here.