Schools could be measured on how much priority is given to physical activity and wellbeing

Schools could soon be measured over how they prioritise sport, physical activity and wellbeing as part of Government plans to get children moving following the Covid-19 lockdown.

In a further major boost for The Telegraph’s Keep Kids Active campaign, sport minister Nigel Huddleston confirmed positive talks had been held with the department for education over an explicit measurement, formally backed by Ofsted, of a school’s approach to physical activity.

With most children having only been in school for just over three months since last March, activity levels have plummeted and sports leaders have called for a national plan to mitigate the physical and mental health damage.

Sport England and The Youth Sports Trust have both advocated measuring schools on sport, physical activity and wellbeing and, during answers to the all-party parliamentary group for sport, Huddleston said that this was being actively considered.

“[On] the importance of making sure that we elevate sport and physical activity in the agenda, and that it gets measured appropriately by Ofsted and others, I have had constructive conversations with the department for education,” he said.

“We are coordinating and trying to push things together. We have heard very positive vibes. They are as keen to get sport and physical activity going again as soon as possible.

“Even in lockdown I’ve been impressed how many schools are elevating it and have got physical activity scheduled in their agenda. The importance of sport and physical activity does sometimes vary from school to school. It is, to some degree, determined by the head and other competing priorities which are understandable.”

As part of our campaign, The Telegraph has specifically called for physical education and activity to be placed on a par with core subjects when children return to school after a lockdown which has also again closed all of their wider sports activities.

Huddleston promised that sport and physical activity would be a priority when restrictions are eased and, addressing another of our campaign aims, stressed the importance of using school sport facilities outside of teaching times for the wider community. 

Of sport’s return, Huddleston said: “I hope we have now seen the end to the stop-start. With the vaccines rolling I think we do have a glidepath to a future that is more optimistic and more sustainable. It is going to be a bumpy road but I think the stop-start has come to an end. We have to be very disciplined and very careful.

“We are now in the path of reopening. We want to make sure sport and physical activity is absolutely front in that list. The reopening won’t be all sports everywhere – there is likely to be some phasing and we will be working on that. Not only participating in sports, but also in terms of volumes of people getting back into stadia again. 

“We are not going to go from zero to 100 overnight. Social distancing in some form, additional hygiene measures in some form, are probably with us to stay for quite a long time.”

Tim Hollingsworth, the chief executive of Sport England, told the parliamentary group that activity levels had inevitably been reduced over the past year and that “inequalities that were there before had got worse”.

The importance of providing opportunities for disabled people was also highlighted. It followed research by the Activity Alliance which showed that more than double the number of disabled people had found their access to sport reduced during Covid compared to able-bodied people. “It has got to be a priority – we have got to deliver there,” said Huddleston. “We do have to follow that through with investment in facilities and access.”

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