Time dedicated to physical education in the curriculum has been cut more than almost any subject, new analysis has found.
According to the Youth Sport Trust, the only subject which has had its curriculum time cut more since 2012 is ICT.
As part of a national school sport week, the charity is calling for more time in the curriculum for PE in every school.
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The government’s school workforce data shows that there were 282,200 hours of PE taught in 2017 – the most recent year for which figures are available.
In 2010 pupils did 333,800 hours, meaning that 51,600 hours of PE have been lost since then.
And the Youth Sport Trust said it feared the cuts have accelerated – in research published last year based on responses from around 600 secondary PE teachers, 24 per cent said their school had reduced curriculum PE in the past year.
The charity is calling for young people to receive a minimum of two hours of high-quality PE per week, along with a “refreshed and transformed” PE curriculum, which “places the focus on the subject more clearly on its role developing the wellbeing and life skills of every young person”.
While the national curriculum currently has a guideline of two hours per week, this is not mandatory. Even where there is two hours per week of PE on the timetable, the charity said it is not uncommon for pupils to be removed from PE for extra classes in other subjects because of accountability pressures.
In addition to the PE curriculum, the charity is calling for 30 active minutes a day. According to research published last week by the UCL Institute of Education, school breaktimes are shorter than two decades ago, meaning children are missing out on opportunities to exercise.
Alison Oliver, chief executive of the Youth Sport Trust, said: “The wellbeing of young people has been in decline and too many are struggling with issues that a good quality physical education could support them with. But four in five young people aren’t active enough and schools have been cutting time for PE on the curriculum.
“To turn this around we need like-minded schools, teachers, parents, young people and others to join together this Youth Sport Trust national school sport week and show why PE and sport have an essential role to play in every young person’s development and the subject should have the same importance as maths and English within a child’s education.”
The Department for Education has been contacted for comment.