Parents call for schools to prioritise PE when they reopen after drop in physical activity during pandemic

Jeremy Wilson
·3 min read
Children are back in schools from March 8 - GETTY
Children are back in schools from March 8 - GETTY

Parents want schools to focus on PE and physical activity when they fully reopen on Monday, according to a new study which shows that more than two-thirds of children have become more sedentary during the pandemic.

With the links between physical activity, good mental health, confidence and academic performance well established, the research also highlights a knowledge gap among parents about how active their children should be.

The Government promised an awareness campaign in 2019 to make 'at least 60 minutes a day' — the chief medical officer’s recommendation — as recognisable as the 'five a day' messaging on fruit and vegetables.

However, according to the polling, which was carried out last month by YouGov on behalf of the Youth Sports Trust, only 38 per cent of parents were aware of the recommendation and more parents (44 per cent) actually thought that the target was 30 minutes or less.

The data follows a report published on Thursday which showed a clear correlation between those countries with a high level of obesity and the highest death tolls from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Telegraph Sport has been running a Keep Kids Active campaign during the Covid-19 pandemic and successfully called on the Government to prioritise children’s sport in their lockdown roadmap.

The YouGov research shows that more than two-thirds (69 per cent) of parents said that their child had become less active over the past year and, alarmingly, only 13 per cent thought that child was doing the recommended 60 minutes of activity a day. Around one in 10 parents said that their child was doing no daily activity.

The research coincides with a new campaign today, launched by the charity SportInspired, called ‘Year of Play’ which will target 10,000 children from around 200 schools in the UK’s most deprived areas with free sports-based programmes.

Along with a range of sports governing bodies and other charities, the Youth Sports Trust is also calling on the Government to introduce what they call an ‘Active Recovery Term’ during the remainder of the academic year which is characterised by daily physical activity, time outdoors and a greater focus on physical education and sport. Around 80 per cent of the parents in the research wanted schools to provide at least 30 minutes of daily activity as well as two hours of PE each week.

“The last year has taken a significant toll on young people’s wellbeing,” said Ali Oliver, the Youth Sports trust chief executive. “It is especially worrying that as many as one in 10 parents believe their children are now completely inactive. After a year of huge disruption and inactivity, schools’ essential role in getting them active and nurturing their enjoyment of sport and movement again will never have been more important.

“We continue to call on the Government to make a bold and courageous commitment to a national ambition for our young people to be the happiest and most active in the world. This should be underpinned by a renewed national strategy to tackle inactivity.”

The children most impacted by the inactivity crisis are those living in the most deprived communities and SportInspired will target those areas in an attempt to engage children in sport.

They will run multi-sports festivals at each school and, using local sports providers, facilitate recurring clubs for the most popular sports. “After a difficult year for children’s activity levels and mental wellbeing, they need a year of play: a year to get back together with friends, to re-ignite the creativity and confidence for active play, to learn new skills,” said Richard Raynes, the chief executive of SportInspired.

Should teachers prioritise PE to make up for lost physical activity? Share your view in the comments section below