Damian Hinds announces school sports drive to 'develop young people's character'

By Neil Puffett

| 02 October 2018

A cross-government school sport and activity action plan will be developed as part of efforts to boost young people's "character, resilience, and grit" Education Secretary Damian Hinds has said.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds has outlined plans to create a school sport and activity action plan. Picture: YouTube

Speaking at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, Hinds said that often what makes the difference for people who left school with "nothing or next to nothing in terms of qualifications, but went on to do something quite amazing in life", is "character".

"[Character] is something you will never see on a certificate of education, but you know it when you see it," he said.

"I mean things like determination and drive, and having the tenacity to stick with the task at hand, and the ability to bounce back from the knocks that life inevitably brings.

"These character traits are closely connected with something I hear all the time about from employers - so-called workplace skills like teamwork, commitment, and the ability to look the customer in the eye and want to make the sale. They are also connected to general health and wellbeing.

"I don't think you can walk into a class of 28 kids one day and say ‘today we are going to learn about character. Today we are going to do drive and determination'.

"Of course you can't. But these things you pick up a lot from what happens at school, and in particular I think extra-curricular activities play a particularly important part."

The school sport and activity action plan, which will be developed jointly by the Department for Education, Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and the Department of Health and Social Care, will aim to ensure that all children have access to quality, protected PE and sport sessions during the school week and opportunities to be physically active throughout the school day. 

It will also involve a review of what further steps can be taken to support schools to train their teachers to deliver high-quality provision in school and ensure that every child can participate in the sport and physical activity that is right for them.

Meanwhile, ministers will meet national governing bodies and sporting organisations including the Football Association, the Premier League, Rugby Football Union, England Hockey and England Netball to ensure that school sport platforms offer our young people the best opportunities to compete. The action plan will be launched in spring 2019.

Youth Sport Trust chief executive Ali Oliver said: "It is hugely encouraging that the Secretary of State is so passionate about the importance of school sport and the contribution competition can make to the development of essential character traits such as grit, resilience and responsibility to others, while offering young people the opportunity to find fun, friendship and a sense of belonging. These are beliefs the Youth Sport Trust holds dear.

"At a time when children's physical and mental health and social development are very real priorities for schools and society, the pivotal role that sport can play in nurturing their development has never been more essential.

Hinds also announced that government will reform training so every teacher is equipped to manage behaviour, backed by a £10m investment to support schools to share best practice.

Meanwhile, the government will expand the training places available to support new careers leaders in schools and colleges from 500 to 1,300.

And £38m will be made available to the first providers of T-levels, the technical equivalent to A-levels, covering courses such as construction, childcare, accounting, and engineering, to make sure pupils the new qualifications from 2020 have access to the equipment and facilities they need.

However, Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said overall funding for schools continues to be an issue.

"What this and any other successive government needs to understand is that unless our schools are properly funded there will be no world-class education system and all other measures will be nothing more than sticking-plaster solutions to a real crisis," he said.

"At a time when there is a shortfall in funding of £2bn a year in real terms compared to three years ago, today's announcement of additional money is a drop in the ocean."

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