Last Friday, I had the pleasure of attending Wood Green Academy’s annual sports day, as part of my work with the Youth Sport Trust, a children’s charity that is committed to highlighting the many benefits of sport in education.
Like the many millions of people who regularly participate in sport up and down the UK, I am keenly aware of how it can enrich lives not just physically, but mentally too. It is therefore fitting that this year’s School Sport Week focused on how Physical Education is improving young people’s wellbeing. The week was themed around the Five Ways to Wellbeing which states that the five keys to good mental health and wellbeing are being active, connecting, giving back, taking notice and learning-all of which are important skills that can have a positive influence on students for the rest of their lives.
It was great to see first hand how Wood Green Academy are putting these values into practice, and I know they will continue their good work in promoting the advantages of an active lifestyle to their pupils.
However, it is also true to say the accomplishments of Wood Green and other schools like it has largely come in spite of government policy, rather than because of it. In recent years, we have seen sustained cuts to school funding which have meant that schools in Sandwell now have £340 less to spend per pupil annually than they did in 2015. For Wood Green Academy, this figure is £546. Physical Education provision has been one of the main casualties of these cuts-national research shows that the number of hours dedicated to the subject has fallen by 5% for pupils in Years 7, 8, and 9-and by as much as 21% for pupils taking their GCSEs in Years 10 and 11.
If the next generation are shown the benefits of sport from an early age, it will help them to lead a healthy lifestyle, as well as teaching them invaluable skills for the future. But we can only do this if schools are given the funding they need to do this. That is why I have repeatedly called on the government to reverse their damaging cuts to school funding, and will continue to do so in the months and years ahead.