The government has said it will give a “huge boost” to school sports by advising that at least two hours of PE is done per week and offering an award to those providing equal access to girls and boys.
Ministers also confirmed extensions for other schemes, including an extra two years of primary PE and sport premium funding, worth £600 million, and £22 million for two more years of its school games organisers network.
A further £57 million will be used to keep school sports facilities open outside the normal school day.
Run by Active Partnerships, the scheme will reach 1,350 schools and target girls, disadvantaged children and those with SEND.
To coincide with international women’s day, prime minister Rishi Sunak will announce an expansion of the “school games mark”. The award will now be given to schools that “successfully deliver equal opportunities for girls and boys”.
Schools will also be “asked to offer a minimum of two hours curriculum PE time”, with government support provided on how to do so through an update of the school sport action plan.
New requirements not statutory
Schools Week understands neither requirement will be statutory, though Ofsted will be asked to check on equal access to sport.
Leaders also warned that school timetables were already “crammed with a multitude of expectations from the government”, with school funding “under huge pressure making it much more difficult to put on extracurricular activities such as sports clubs”.
The announcement follows a campaign last year by the England women’s football team. They said “every girl in the nation” should be offered the opportunity to play football at school.
The squad also called on the government to ensure all girls can access a minimum of two hours of physical education a week.
Sunak said Lionesses’ victory in the Euros “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.”
Ofsted will look at equal access to sport
Ofsted will also publish a report on PE to “inform future inspections and set out what they believe is possible in terms of offering high quality PE and equal access to sports”.
The watchdog will also be asked to check up on school PE when it looks at enrichment during inspections and will comment in reports when there are issues with equal access.
This follows a pledge made by Rishi Sunak during the first 2022 Conservative leadership campaign to ask Ofsted to assess PE in every school.
Education secretary Gillian Keegan said “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.”
Timetables ‘crammed with expectations’
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL school leaders’ union, welcomed the funding announcement and the “warm words from the government about championing sport and PE in schools”.
He said he was “sure that the vast majority of schools already provide equal access to sport for boys and girls and that they strive to ensure that there are plenty of opportunities for PE and sport during the school week”.
But he said there needed to be a “reality check”, with school timetables “crammed with a multitude of expectations from the government in all sorts of areas and it is a constant battle to find the time for everything”.
“There is a real need for a comprehensive curriculum review that slims down expectations and gives the right weighting to all these competing demands.
“In addition, school funding is under huge pressure making it much more difficult to put on extracurricular activities such as sports clubs. We need a proper strategy and resources rather than piecemeal announcements and new targets.”