The Rt. Hon. Gavin Williamson MP
Secretary of State for Education
Department for Education
20 Great Smith Street
Sent via email
Friday, 11 June 2021
Re. Impact of covid-19 on children’s physical wellbeing
I am writing to raise my concerns over the impact covid-19 has had on the physical health of children. Much has been said on the effects of school closures on pupils’ educational attainment, but a catch-up plan worthy of its name would not be complete without properly addressing the loss of opportunities for sports and exercise.
The National Schools Active Movement survey has brought to light the full scale of the problem. Data from around 40 schools in Sheffield who completed the survey have presented some extremely concerning local findings:
- 92% of schools said that pupils’ physical fitness was worse than before.
- 84% of schools said that pupils’ fundamental movement skills, which they need to support everyday life, had gotten worse.
- 86% of schools stated that they believed pupils had put on excessive weight by the time they returned to school.
It is vital that we properly address this issue as an urgent national priority. But just as schools have begun to resume PE lessons and extracurricular sporting activities, future funding has become uncertain.
The Arches School Sport Partnership brings high-quality PE and sport to schools across Sheffield on a not-for-profit basis. They contacted me recently raising their concerns on the uncertainty of their funding. They have begun an ambitious programme to prioritise an active recovery, using funding from the PE and Sport Premium. The delay in confirming continued investment into this initiative has, in their own words, “compromised their ability to continue this work in a strategic and effective manner, at best inhibiting schools planning sport and physical activities next term and at worst leading to a de-prioritisation of PE, Sport and Physical Activity at a time when it is most needed for the children of Sheffield.”
Funding for the PE and Sport Premium beyond September 2021 must be assured. This is vital if we are to reverse the worrying trends we are currently seeing and improve the wellbeing of children across the country.
We all know of the close relationship between children’s physical health and their mental health. This also has a direct impact on their educational attainment. I therefore urge you to provide certainty to schools and external providers of PE and sporting activities so that they have the confidence to plan for the future.
Gill Furniss MP
Member of Parliament for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough