BLOG: Government continuing to undervalue the power of the sport sector

With just a day to go till polling day, AoC Sport Policy Manager Matt Rhodes gives his thoughts on the role sport and physical activity has to play and what AoC Sport will be pushing for whatever the outcome.

In what feels like a rushed General Election with limited time for parties to develop a rounded manifesto it is both disappointing and unsurprising that sport and physical activity (S&PA) has failed to gain much recognition amongst the backdrop of Brexit, the NHS, and the economy.

Whilst the manifestos contain some fleeting references to obesity, school sport and cycling infrastructure they do little to recognise the potential contribution of S&PA on crucial issues such as health and social care, youth violence, mental health, and social mobility.

Of course, all investment in S&PA is welcomed by the sector but until there is cross-government consensus about the contribution that the sector can make towards a broad spectrum of societal issues it is like we have one hand tied behind our back and frustration grows that government continues to under-utilise the power of our sector.

However, some progress has been made and the new National Academy for Social Prescribing is a nod towards a more joined-up approach between the NHS and community services including our sector.

It should be an ambition for all parties that we all spend more years in good physical and mental health. To stand any chance of achieving this S&PA needs to be considered as part of the planning and decision process for more government departments than just the obvious ones such as DCMS and the Department for Health and Social Care.

Within Further Education a cut in real terms has reduced the hours of teaching time, support, enrichment, extra curricular activities and breadth of offer that many young people experience as a result of this delivering S&PA in colleges has become increasingly challenging.

The current Government announced a seven per cent increase in the 16 to 18 education budget in the 2020-1 Spending Round which will be used to increase the full-time base rate to £4,188. This increase is a helpful start but it does not go nearly far enough, following a seven-year period in which rates were not increased at all.

Whatever the outcome of the election, we will continue to push for an increase to the FE funding rate to ensure colleges can offer all students opportunities for them to enjoy the benefits of S&PA. We also know that education providers are not solely responsible for engaging young people in S&PA and we will continue to work with partners in community sport to ensure appropriate provision is accessible for college students and that their voice is heard.