Lack of curriculum PE is failing our children

England Athletics and partners call for political party leaders to facilitate more access to sport and physical activity to help alleviate the mental health epidemic in the UK.

England Athletics has today hosted the second in a series of All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Running events, with a further call from Kim Leadbetter MP – chair of the APPG – for MPs to recognise the need for more support for physical and mental health amongst children.

Downderry-Primary-School group shot

Today’s event follows on from the open letter launched by England Athletics and Partners* in October, calling for physical activity to be embedded into the curriculum and beyond to give children the opportunity to lead healthier and happier lives and the UK becoming the most active nation in Europe.

Hosted at Downderry Primary School in Lewisham, Commonwealth Games gold-medallist and London athlete Emmanuel Oyinbo-Coker along with Olympian Donna Fraser OBE began the day by joining in with 40 schoolchildren participating in ‘funetics’ sessions as part of The Personal Best Foundation’s Schools Programme.

Following the activities, Kim Leadbeater MP led a conversation with the school prefects before hosting a panel session with Fraser and Vicci Wells, Head of Sport at the Youth Sport Trust, on the topic of physical literacy and well-being at the heart of the curriculum.

Donna Fraser and Emmanuel at primary school for funetics

Closing the event, Oyinbo-Coker read the Open Letter, emphasising: “We’re calling on all party leaders to put physical and health literacy at the heart of the future school curriculum, giving all children and young people access to high-quality PE, co-curricular activity, and community provision." 

Speaking during the event, Leadbeater said:

“It was great to be at Downderry Primary School today - a huge thank you to England Athletics, The Daily Mail, London Marathon Events and the Personal Best Foundation for their collaboration on the event. Bringing organisations together to create a joined-up approach is important in achieving political change.  

“I get quite frustrated with the lack of political leadership in this space - really understanding the value of sport and physical activity in our communities, for our young people and for our families, is something I’m really trying to champion. We need to look at how we can do more to support our young people to be happy and healthy, to support our grass roots clubs who can do amazing things, and to take a much more holistic approach.”  

With a clear strategic focus which places athletes and runners at the heart, England Athletics runs two national participation schemes targeted towards helping children and young people become more physically active, while partners The Daily Mile supported by Ineos and the London Marathon Events run a further two:

  • The Personal Best Foundation is a charity launched by England Athletics in November 2022 which uses the transformational impact of athletics to provide children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and underserved communities with the opportunity to participate and achieve their personal best, breaking down social inequalities and improving their physical, mental and social health and well-being.
  • funetics was created by England Athletics to help 4 to 11-year-old children across the country to learn, develop and practice the three basic principles of running, jumping and throwing skills all year round, for a healthy and confident future. Developed for all primary school children, funetics reflects the national curriculum Key stage 1 and 2, designed to inspire all young pupils to succeed in fundamental movement skills.
  • The Daily Mile is free and fun for all. Children simply run, jog, wheel or walk for 15 minutes during curriculum time. 
  • The TCS London Mini Marathon is an inspiring and inclusive event held the day before the prestigious adult marathon. There are various methods of schools taking part, including virtual celebrations for schools across the whole UK. 

England Athletics CEO Chris Jones explains:

“Sport has the potential to play a pivotal role in a child’s development across academic attainment, mental health and physical well-being and we are proud to deliver programmes aimed specifically for children in conjunction with our partners.

“A huge thank you to the school children at Downderry Primary School for brilliantly showcasing funetics today. The school was a particularly fitting venue for our event as it is the first school to benefit from the Personal Best Foundation’s After School Pilot Programme, which aims to deliver high quality athletics clubs within schools and prioritising free access to those children on free school meals. 

“Today was another successful APPG event, but there is still more which can be done, so we continue our call to the political party leaders to facilitate more access to sport and physical activity to help alleviate the mental health epidemic in the UK.”