HOW IS THE PRIMARY PE & SPORT PREMIUM BEING SPENT AND WHAT IS ITS IMPACT?
Even after its launch eight years ago, according to Parnell (2017) The Primary PE and Sports Premium still remains ‘a funding stream incomparable to any other primary curricular subject’. At first, credibility and status were sealed with the guarantee that the funding was to be ringfenced with schools consequently only able to direct the grant towards enhancement of the quality of Physical education (PE) and sports provision
According to Griggs (2018) the spending of the Premium has, thus far, been at the ‘discretion of the school leadership team or delegated to the primary PE subject
co-ordinator’. This has enabled primary schools to freely direct locally based decisions as to how best to allocate their funding in relation to both particular needs and interests of their pupils.
By way of the monitoring of progress attained to date, very little published research has been applied to ensuring the impact of the programme with Government typically reliant upon the County Sport Partnerships (now known as ‘Active Partnerships’) annual review that continues to focus primarily upon types of usage.
There have been several quality-assured regional independent school sport organisations who have habitually attended to their own annual data analysis of school performance; however, such best practice has not achieved the expected effect of being scrutinised and enacted upon when sent on to senior professional organisations responsible for review of the Strategy. In one instance in 2015, a regional Primary PE consultant was admonished by their local CSP and urged not to continue their programme of scrutiny as a result of a complaint received from a borough head teacher through the Department for Education. Upon further investigation by the DfE PE & School Sport Team, it emerged that the complaint had been completely made up that was done as ‘a joke’ with evidently no thought attributed to the inconvenience caused to the Consultant and their ongoing working efforts. It was to take a further two years before the CEO of the CSP concerned was to issue a full apology for this serious breach of behaviour. Regrettably, it can be argued that such acts of unprofessionalism have only served to diminish trust in key services when there has always been the marked need for quality-assured local/regional and national providers to actively collaborate and support each other’s high quality working practices in the pursuit of ensuring that The Premium strategy achieves its full potential.
Trust is central to the impact of the Premium to date, as confirmed by the DfE (3rd June 2016):
‘We trust head teachers to spend this money on what they think will most benefit their pupils. When schools are deciding how to spend their PE and Sport Premium, we want them to consider how they will demonstrate that it has led to additional and sustainable improvement to the quality of PE and sport in the school. We have published further guidance on the PE and sport premium, including how to use the funding, at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/pe-and-sport-premium-for-primary-schools.
We have reiterated in the guidance that funding is not to be used to cover PPA time or other school needs. My understanding that the 4th April deadline was also signposted, but then subsequently removed after the date had passed. We also engage on a regular basis with our key partners (including YST and afPE), who in turn disseminate information to schools and PE teachers/coaches etc. Equally, while academies are not required to follow the national curriculum, they are still accountable to Ofsted; Inspectors will consider how effectively leaders use the PE and sport premium and measure its impact on outcomes for pupils, and how effectively governors hold them to account for this. Academies are also required to publish use of the funding on their school’s website.
The school’s leadership and governors will need to consider how any spending would generate improvements in the PE and sport provision. Schools will need to provide evidence of this in their online reporting, and must include:
Schools are accountable to Ofsted, who will assess how primary schools spend their PE and sport premium. The Ofsted school inspection handbook from September 2015 states that inspectors will use all available evidence to develop an initial picture of the school’s performance, including analysis of the PE and sport premium. Inspectors will consider how effectively leaders use the PE and sport premium and measure its impact on outcomes for pupils, and how effectively governors hold them to account for this. The DfE published advice in December 2015 outlining the roles and duties of school governors and academy trusts. The document includes specific reference to the primary PE and sport premium and can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/governance-handbook.
We have evaluated the impact and schools’ use of the PE & Sport premium through the independent research company, NatCen. Evidence from the 2015 report indicates the funding is having a positive impact. Sixty-six per cent of schools reported there had been a change in who delivered extra-curricular sport activities after the introduction of the PE and sport premium. Of those schools who reported a change, there was a move away from the use of class teachers (73% to 66%) towards the use of external sports coaches (57% to 90%) and specialist PE teachers (27% to 48%)
We continue to view our guidelines and accountability measures and are currently working with partners in order to examine ways of making them even more robust than they already are in anticipation for the doubling of the premium from September 2017 onwards.’
In its planning and delivery of the strategy, The Government had created loopholes that enabled schools to adopt creative accountancy measures in line with their received grant. At a time when real term funding cuts were making their mark upon core budgets, the opportunity came for schools to increasingly use the funding to offset their cutbacks especially where salaries and core subject resource costs were concerned. Such behaviour was being fuelled by inadequate scrutiny by Ofsted with the typical omission of cross-referencing the online report of annual spend with actual spend records kept by the school’s finance officer. In the growing culture of short inspections, Ofsted would only resort to checking for evidence of a report online prior to inspection with the emerging practice of no further questions asked. Whether schools had been inspected or were due to be, they could turn to producing made-up reports or even copying and pasting objectives from previous years on the basis that former evidence had been removed – the latter ruse was made all the more possible with the DfE’s decision to drop the requirement to factor into the end of year report, ‘details of how you have spent your previous academic years’ funding’ despite the Ministry’s insistence that schools also had to demonstrate ‘how the improvements will be sustainable in the future’. Again, the DfE relied upon the trust of schools.
The lack of accountability; governance and scrutiny and the consequent impact upon PE and School Sport resulted in extensive debate and reporting by All Parliamentary Party for Fit & Healthy Childhood with a membership comprising of professionals engaged within the field of education and active healthy lifestyles.
‘Today, as the outcomes to the population’s health and the nation’s finances of an entrenched obesity crisis become common currency, it has perhaps never been more important for the PE profession to grasp the need for leadership and clarity in the message they convey to government. Elected politicians must be equipped with the knowledge to fight for changes that will enhance the experiences and opportunities for future generations.’
(Physical Education, October 2016)
The Primary PE curriculum in England has moved towards outsourcing provision whereby a large number of external companies without qualified teacher status and with minimum experience of working with young people who have complex health and disability issues are delivering statutory lessons.
Young people’s early experiences of Physical Activity, PE and school sport can have lasting effect on later attitudes towards being physically active adolescents and adults. Therefore the schools and wider communities responsible for childcare and education for early years’ children require a highly skilled and qualified workforce, capable of supporting a range of those with disabilities to access daily PA. Physical activity for young people must be addressed in the broadest sense of engagement and participation, recognising that the breadth of individual involvement can range from and embrace motor skill development, play, physical independence, games, sport and PE. ‘
(Physical Activity in Early Childhood, October 2017)
‘The Primary PE and School Sports Premium (ring-fenced funding; doubled since September 2017 and available for primary schools to boost the quality of PE and sport activities offered to children) should be an efficient means of combating undesirable trends. However, a practitioner notes some serious flaws in the delivery of PESS premium:
‘In my experience, it appears that the bulk of the Premium is being used to make up shortfall in school budgets rather than being used to give all children access and opportunity to high quality physical education. If the money was just used correctly in every school, it would be sufficient to give every child a high quality experience to benefit all aspects of a healthy lifestyle. There is enough in my opinion, for schools to be very creative in its use so that they can cater for all pupil need’ (Kathryn Sexton; Juka Dance, 2018).
Criticisms of the PESS Premium are widespread and some are here taken from a monitoring website set up by Active Matters. Cross-sector comments show that in the absence of accredited checks, balances and underpinning theory, ‘throwing money at problems’ is doomed to failure. Observations include:
(The Impact of Social and Economic Inequalities on Children’s Health, March 2018)
It became apparent through the latter of the reports that the only organisation transparently conducting any meaningful investigation and feedback was Active Matters, an international service specialising in Early Years Development who provided a means for practitioners to report back upon experiences of the strategy at the everyday chalkface. Many alarming concerns were being fed back:
The latter example is also concerning as it reflects how little progress has been achieved since Ofsted’s appraisal of coaches in 2009:
‘Although employing coaches brought the advantage of highly specialist subject expertise, it also brought the disadvantage of the coaches‟ weaker pedagogical skills.”
The rising face of incorrect application of funding also demonstrates a chosen decision to overlook the all-important aspect of high quality sustainability with the following words from former Minister for Children & Families, Edward Timpson beginning to sound hollow in terms of growing evidence of practice:
‘And importantly a real focus of our (DfE) work on the Premium has been around sustainability. Ensuring that improvements made by head teachers today have an impact upon pupils at school in a year, five years, ten years’ time. If every teacher feels confident about getting up and teaching a PE lesson the school won't be reliant upon buying in external coaches whose expertise disappears when their contract runs out’
This April’s Freedom of Information Request response from DfE to Active Matters yielded further concerns given the ease of public access to all state school reports online:
‘You requested for us to provide details of those schools who have failed
to comply with set regulations and who have been required to 'pay back the
whole or any part of the Premium' and to break it down and sent back to
you in the form of an excel spreadsheet on a year-by-year basis starting
from 2013-14. You asked for:
a) Name of schools.
c) Total funding returned.
d) Misuse discovered e.g., the funding of statutory curricular swimming
e) Whether subsequent instalments of the Premium were then withheld.
I have dealt with your request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
Following a search of the Department’s paper and electronic records, I
have established that the information you requested is not available. The
Department has not requested that any school pay back the whole or any
part of the Premium and misuse of the premium has not been reported.’
In more recent times, the subject has come under the media microscope via national educational journal, Schools Week who reported significant findings from their own investigation:
‘The government has been urged to plug the holes in its sport premium cash scheme, with teachers claiming schools are fudging their funding.
The call comes as the education secretary Damian Hinds announced this week a new “school sport action plan” to get more pupils to play competitive sport.
National sports organisations, including the Premier League, the Football Association, England Netball and the Rugby Football Union, will contribute to the plan. It will be published next spring.
My last headteacher went for copying and pasting last summer term’s report from an older year. Totally gobsmacked by her brazenness
But school sport experts have called on the government to instead concentrate on implementing its current strategies to boost school sport and tackle childhood obesity.
Teachers claim PE and sport premium funding – introduced in 2013 as part of the London 2012 Olympic legacy – is being misused. This year the government doubled the amount it gives to primary schools each year to £320 million, with schools receiving up to £27,510 each.
Schools must use the ring-fenced cash to make “additional and sustainable” improvements to the quality of PE and sport.
But in comments submitted to the Active Matters website and shared with Schools Week, one teacher said the funding was a “Wild West” where “anything goes on and you can spend your money on whatever you want”.
School leaders are expected to publish details online of how the money is spent. Ofsted will check this during inspections.
One teacher told Active Matters: “My last headteacher went for copying and pasting last summer term’s report from an older year. Totally gobsmacked by her brazenness. However, HMI didn’t spot it.”
Another said the online plan was a “complete work of fiction on our website. The money has [instead] been used to prop up TA salaries”.
An analysis of 86 primary schools in the London borough of Croydon, seen by Schools Week, found a quarter had no evidence online for how the funding was spent last year.
Four in five of the schools (79 per cent) had yet to provide the completed statutory performance report.
A report by the all-party parliamentary group on a fit and healthy childhood, published earlier this year, said a “lack of rigorous audit has increased the undesirable likelihood of the money being hijacked from its original purpose to ease shortfalls elsewhere in school budgets.
“The intention behind the premium is laudable, but its operation is in urgent need of close scrutiny and comprehensive, widespread evaluation.”
The Department for Education (DfE) has the power to recoup funding – or withhold future payments – should any school be found to have misused the cash.
But a freedom of information request earlier this year revealed the government has not docked funding from any school since 2013.
A spokesperson for the Active Matters website said this was despite findings from the parliamentary group, its members own meetings with MPs over funding misuse, and data evidence submitted to the DfE.
The site was still receiving “worrying feedback” over “extensive ongoing malpractice”.
A PE consultant, who did not want to be named, told Schools Week that misuse of funding was “regrettable, but understandable”, given funding pressures.
But he added that it was “short-sighted to not use the funding as it was designed”.
A government survey found 55.6 per cent of five to ten-year-olds took part in organised sport competitions in school last summer, down from 62.4 per cent in 2016.
An Ofsted spokesperson said it took the misuse of premium funding “seriously”. “If we find that funding is not being used for the right purposes, we will make this clear in the school’s report and take it into account in coming to a judgment.”
The DfE said it trusts schools to decide how they spend the money but added government officials check published details of premium spending through random samples of schools.’
Whilst the last week of December 2018 had seen Education Secretary, Damian Hinds push for leading sporting bodies to work with schools and help more children play competitive sport, one key concern has to be how The Government is running before it walks with the subject of Physical Education, School Sports & Physical Activity (PESSPA).
Priority must lay with the quality of PESSPA curricular teaching and learning by all for all as the foundation for pupil participation continuity and progression. Furthermore, since the establishment of the Premium, Government is yet to actively promote the many benefits of exercise upon cognitive; cultural; moral; social and spiritual spheres of learning that would provide important direction for schools to sufficiently address arguably the most crucial of the five key indicators, namely ensuring that ‘the profile of PE and sport is raised across the school as a tool for whole-school improvement; - without the acceptance of a whole school ethos then all other indicators will never achieve their full potential.
The Education Secretary might find further insight from the following reader feedback to School Week’s recent expose:
‘Once again physical education is being confused with competitive sport. This is typical of government ministers and they are not experts, so could be forgiven.
However, schools should know better. Unfortunately, there has been a dearth of physical educators, so everything is outsourced. Obscene amounts of money are chucked at companies who come in and get kids to walk a mile.
Physical education is a wonderful thing if done properly. It really makes a difference to young people and can create lifelong movers. It is a travesty that companies are like sharks feeding in the water and head teachers are abdicating responsibility.’
(James Marshall, Oct 23rd. Link: https://schoolsweek.co.uk/investigation-schools-accused-of-fudging-sport-premium-funding/)
Added to this were September 2018 published HMCI findings from recent curriculum research, curriculum design and the new education inspection framework.
‘The research underpinning that commentary showed that there was a dearth of understanding about the curriculum in some schools. Too many teachers and leaders have not been trained to think deeply about what they want their pupils to learn and how they are going to teach it. ... We identified that there is a general lack of curriculum knowledge and expertise in the sector leading to some weak practices, like curriculum narrowing and teaching to the test. We also had concerns about whether all pupils had equal access to the whole curriculum’
(Ofsted's Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman – 18/9/18)
Link: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/hmci-commentary-curriculum-and-the- new-education-inspection-framework
The subsequent investigation and report produced by the APPG for Fit & Healthy Childhood re: Primary PE & Sport Premium resulted in the coming together of subject specific expertise formed of both regional grassroots and national body representative backgrounds. The report and launch meeting notes yielded a mass of recommendations that to this day have not been properly actioned by significant governing departments:
Minutes of Meeting to Accompany Report Launch: https://fhcappg.org.uk/?p=1086
It should be noted that at two APPG meetings, subsequent witnessed conversations with several key speakers yielded the following alarming conclusions:
a) Ofsted did not have the workforce capability to provide meaningful on-site scrutiny of the Premium (HMI)
b) ‘You know what the real issue is. The Government is committed to protecting its flagship policy of the Academies & Free Schools programme whatever the cost’ (PHE Civil Servant)
Since then the Strategy has continued to be beset by challenges essentially focussed around inadequate accountability and scrutiny with the likes of the internationally highly regarded Early Years advisory organisation, Active Matters continuing to profile deficiencies within this national strategy as well as evident campaign for change with the sharing of proactive ideas for development: https://www.activematters.org/pess-premium-monitoring/
Despite this organisation’s monitoring efforts having featured within two APPG reports of late, it is disturbing to learn only this month via twitter social media that:
We can also confirm that we have not received any feedback from any of the following ‘influential’ organisations re: our monitoring of #PrimaryPEPremium despite our working efforts being recognised within several @fhcappg reports. Forwarded to @DCMS @educationgovuk @_ukactive @Sport–England etc
A real question also has to be raised in relation to evident fragmentation of the School PE & Sports sector with separate competing agendas bereft of careful scrutiny of standards in place with the likes of Sport England having evidently turned the other cheek to published well-founded, first-hand and accurate accusations of favouritism towards certain groups (inevitably influenced by ‘cross fertilisation’ of former and present board of trustees) , namely, Youth Sport Trust (YST); School Games Organisers(SGOs) and Active Partnerships (AP)– ongoing practices include receipt of financial inducements to exclusively promote specific service providers, unbeknown to school customers, whilst abandoning expected quality assured promotion of a level playing field to all educational parties. The awarding of grants for a range of initiatives is also yet to yield any published transparency of impact that enables the taxpayer to effectively assess both integrity and value for money:
School Games Organisers have received particular favour in terms of repeated funding despite non-conformity of borough-by-borough practice to produce transparency of full job description accompanied by a marked variation in terms of package prices for schools. Furthermore, there is online evidence available of other practices including:
a) Lack of public recording of schools’ data in relation to School Games Kitemarks with examples forwarded of the same SGOs tasked with supporting the completion of applications and then consequent verification and awarding
b) Attempted displacement of long-established HQ PE advisory services to concentrate regional schools’ minds upon their business agendas
In the interests of protecting integrity and striving for strong ethical working practices, both PESSPA and education systems are affected by a complaints system that can all too often particularly punish the complainant, and unfairly so. System protocols with key organisations e.g., Ofsted; DfE; Sport England demand that you should typically first approach the source of the complaint that in the case of a senior leader can yield threatening ramifications e.g., blackmarking of the complainant’s work to schools within both Trust and within the local education authority. Note the following example that highlights the risk of complaining ‘in confidence’ in relation to the reporting of malpractice committed by a senior leader:
‘A teacher has been suspended from a failing academy after raising concerns about the school directly with the education watchdog, it emerged today’ : (Daily Telegraph Apr 2013) https://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/9965200/Teacher-suspended-after-shopping-school-to-Ofsted.html
It is little wonder then that the published guarantee by Active Matters of protection of identity has resulted within an evident avalanche of feedback from grassroots professionals wishing to address examples of malpractice rooted to the Primary PE & Sport Premium: https://www.activematters.org/pess-premium-monitoring/
By way of scrutiny of online reports, the DfE continues to adopt the practice that:
‘Schools’ online reporting is monitored through an annual sample of schools. Active Partnerships review the published information on selected schools’ websites to ensure it meets the requirements on PE and sport premium funding and swimming attainment. The results are then shared with DfE and help to ensure that Active Partnerships can offer schools in their local area the most relevant support.’
Such sampling has typically been in the region of 10% of schools within each Active Partnership operational region and with no publication of data analysis with DfE having previously demanded an overall report from each that once again has not been made available to members of the public. Furthermore, the sampling has been carried out remotely therefore ensuring that those schools wishing to report their breakdown of spend and impact dishonestly are never found out through this system of scrutiny. The DfE’s reliance upon TRUST is one that regrettably a growing number of schools having been able to abuse as highlighted in the recently reported findings from Education Skills & Funding Agency (EKFA) when called in to investigate Penny Bridge CE Academy, near Ulverston following a breach in academy rules on managing money with the accusation consequently upheld.
This case study demonstrates the public perception that the school endeavoured to portray with external checking of their statutory PE Premium breakdown of spend; impact and sustainability suggesting adherence to the rules:
Online scrutiny of actual breakdown of spend undertaken by EKFA however discovered the following:
‘Investigations also found funding meant for PE had been used to fund the curriculum and other expenditure, nearly £2,000 worth of iPad tablets.’
Schools are incredibly busy places with relentless pressures to increase standards. In amongst all of this, the health and wellbeing of UK primary school children is on the decline:
Traditional approaches towards improving health outcomes for children focus heavily upon PE and Sport during segmented periods of the school day. But does this engage all children in becoming more active? Or does it merely maintain the levels of those that are active already?
We need to consider the principles of Physically Active Learning (PAL). Research in this field has found that PAL can:
As senior PESSPA organisations endeavour to ride forward with yet another national strategy in tow, namely the School Sport & Activity Action Plan, one has to ask whether yet another directive may follow the barriers faced by two former national School Strategies that have cost the taxpayer north of £3.5bn to date. The School Sport & Activity Action Plan is driven by objectives implicit within the two previous national strategies thereby resembling an appearance akin to ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’.
On the other hand, The Primary PE & Sport Premium can still be rescued (and expanded to the Secondary sector courtesy of the continuity of the Sugar Tax) but it needs considerable review by DfE who would particularly benefit from engaging more so with specialist consultants and other practitioners who live and breathe the strategy on an everyday basis at the chalkface. The fact that a workforce of independent borough PE advisors can be established to support schools with planning and reporting; delivery of PE & PSHE subject leader forums whilst also being responsible for feeding back collected honest data to both Active Partnerships and DfE is surely a proposal to consider with the funding of such posts drawn from an agreed % of grant received by each school. Ofsted also needs to question itself as to whether it has a national workforce efficiently equipped with the required expertise to provide thorough scrutiny of the real impact of the PE Premium upon children’s health and wellbeing. An alternative model of inspection led by the professional specialist calibre of both afPE and The PSHE Association is otherwise recommended.
We wonder what Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall would say to these findings given their laudable campaigning efforts to tackle childhood obesity. As we also seek to address the current mental health crisis for children and young people, we raise the significant question as to whether head teachers and families truly appreciate the extent that physical activity can be used as a positive tool for remedy…after what has been nearly twenty years of ‘ringfenced funding’ afforded to this specific subject of the national curriculum?
a) Department for Education
b) London Sport CSP
28 January 2021