Recommendations to encourage physical education in schools, including motor skills in early childhood, and to create valuable interactions with the sport sector, local authorities and the private sector

As set out in the EU Work Plan for Sport 2014-2017 , an expert group on health-enhancing physical activity has compiled a set of recommendations to encourage physical education in schools, including motor skills in early childhood, and to help create links with the sport sector, local authorities and the private sector.
The promotion of physical activity, in particular at younger age, remains a priority for the EU.Regular physical activity during childhood is an important foundation for a happy, healthy and longer life.There is a high probability that a physically active child will continue to be active as an adult. Physical activity has positive impacts on academic achievements too.
The dangers associated with inactive lifestyles are clear and include heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Unfortunately, current levels of physical activity among children are still too low.Too many children fail to meet recommended daily levels of activity from the World Health Organization , leading to huge economic cost for society.Participation in sport and physical activity also contribute to fairer societies.
Sport is not only about well-being and individual pleasure, it is also about education, the development of transversal skills, solidarity and integration.Given the number of hours children spend in school, schools are key in promoting physical activity.
As planned in the EU Work Plan for Sport 2014-2017 , the European Commission worked with experts from EU countries, and with relevant observer organisations, in an Expert Group on health-enhancing physical activity to draw up the recommendations on physical education in schools. 28 recommendations , including supporting evidence and relevant research, have been proposed and addressed to national governments, sport organisations and the private sector.
These recommendations will be taken up further by the Council of the EU in the second half of 2015, under the Luxembourg Presidency, as part of the priorities for sport aiming at promoting physical and motor activity, in particular during early childhood.

28 Recommendations to encourage Physical Education in Schools

Recommendation 1 – Physical activity should be promoted from birth and throughout the life course, at all educational levels: early childhood, primary, secondary education, and tertiary level. The pre-school and school environments play a key role in the development of physical education and promotion of physical activity and sport.

Recommendation 2 – All those in charge of children from birth and through early childhood should be aware of the important role they have in starting an educational process for motor development and physical activity. Parents, educators in day-care settings, and teachers in pre-schools should be assisted to develop their knowledge and knowhow for this topic, especially for sensorimotor learning and active play. Community-based programmes should be developed and offered to parents, educators and teachers.

Recommendation 3 – From birth and during early childhood, physical education should include daily active play, enjoyable games, and sports aiming to develop core neuromotor skills, physical, psychological, and social attributes. In primary and secondary education, physical education should include a broad variety of different games, dance, sports, and physical exercises. Physical activity at school and physical education should be fun and enjoyable to maximise children’s willingness and desire to learn and participate.

Recommendation 4 – The physical education curriculum content should include physical activities according to maturity phases taking into account the favourable periods that allow the full development of neuromotor abilities and skills.

Recommendation 5 – Outdoor physical activities and sports should be promoted at all education levels. Along with extra-curricular activities, the physical education curriculum should instil lasting habits of moving regularly in outdoor settings.

Recommendation 6 – Physical education and extra-curricular activities should foster an ethical education by teaching values such as fair play, cooperation, equity, equality, integrity, peace, human rights, and respect of others’ capabilities. Through sport participation, they should also develop relevant skills such as teamwork, social inclusion and leadership, avoiding sport stereotypes.

Recommendation 7 – The physical education curriculum should include health education concepts like personal and social well-being, health promotion, and healthy lifestyles from a broader perspective beyond the practice of physical activity and sport. Physical education teachers should also cooperate closely with other disciplines in school to fully develop these concepts among the education community.

Recommendation 8 – Everyone should be able to participate in physical education and extra-curricular activities through inclusive, differentiated and adapted methodologies and activities, including less active and less skilled children. Children with a disability or special educational needs should be offered adapted activities and not be excluded.

Recommendation 9 – Planned and well-designed physical education classes should integrate safety strategies and prevention measures in order to reduce the odds of injury and improve risk management.

Recommendation 10 – The minimum physical education taught time recommended during compulsory education period should be increased to at least 5 lessons per week (~ 5 hours). The physical education curricular structure and goals should be adjusted accordingly, defining tangible and flexible outcomes for each developmental stage, and suggesting the inclusion of realistic activities.

Recommendation 11 – Physical education is a necessary part of school curriculum, and exemptions should only be granted in extraordinary circumstances. In most cases, participation should be ensured with the use of inclusive, differentiated and adapted activities.

Recommendation 12 – Physical education should consider the possibility of including evaluation based on personal progress and achievements to complement both formative and summative methods. physical education teachers should provide effective and regular feedback, within defined learning outcomes.

Recommendation 13 – Qualified and specialised PE teachers should be preferred at all educational levels. When not possible, as a minimum, qualified PE teachers or certified coaches should counsel and support general teachers.

Recommendation 14 – National education coordinating bodies should promote quality changes in the training curricula of physical education teachers, both in initial formation and continuous education, in order to improve and expand those teachers’ knowledge and competences in a variety of relevant subjects.

Recommendation 15 – National education coordinating bodies and schools should support the development and implementation of methods to ensure the compliance with and the high quality of the physical education curriculum.

Recommendation 16 – Schools, alone or accompanied by other relevant organisations should promote and increase the availability of physical activities outside physical education curriculum (e.g. physical activity and sport, active breaks) including the implementation of the active school concept.

Recommendation 17 – Schools should seek to establish a cooperative framework with sport organisations and other local sport offers in order to promote both curricular and extra-curricular activities.

Recommendation 18 – Partnerships should be created between schools and sport sector organisations to ensure quality and availability of safe infrastructures and equipment for physical education, extra-curricular or after-school activities, and communities. These partnerships should ensure the efficient management of infrastructures and prevent duplicate or underused facilities.

Recommendation 19 – School administration should be encouraged to open their sport facilities after schools hours to make them more accessible to local communities and sport organisations.

Recommendation 20 – A label should be created at European Union level to be awarded to schools respecting a set of criteria demonstrating active involvement in supporting and promoting physical activities and sport.

Recommendation 21 – School administration should create and strengthen the conditions to support and facilitate talent development of young athletes aspiring to a career in elite sports, by promoting the adoption of several specific measures such as flexible curricula and weekly schedules (allowing for sufficient time to train and compete), school enrolment, school transfer, remedial classes, flexible exams dates and tutor teachers.

Recommendation 22 –Frameworks should be developed at the national level to promote participation of certified coaches in cooperation between schools, sport organisations and local authorities with the objective of creating a sustainable impact on schools and complementing the sport skills of teachers. This participation should not replace compulsory physical education classes or compensate for a possible lack of physical education teachers.

Recommendation 23 – Local authorities should promote the necessary conditions to develop active transport to and from school, especially reducing car traffic and speed near schools, developing safe routes for cycling or walking groups (“pedibus”) or active skating, providing bicycle racks and promoting active transport among all members of school communities.

Recommendation 24 – Local authorities should develop efficient models to plan, manage and fund high quality and safe physical activity and sport infrastructures making them accessible for schools, sport organisations, local communities and citizens.

Recommendation 25 – In cooperation with schools, sport organisations and other stakeholders, local authorities should develop and implement local campaigns to promote regular physical activity and sport as part of a healthier lifestyle.

Recommendation 26 – Private sector organisations should be encouraged to cooperate with schools or other educational institutions to develop a physical activity and sport offer for young people such as sport camps, regular sport programmes, extra-curricular activities, and public awareness-raising events, in particular in areas where opportunities are limited, and to make it accessible for pupils and school community. These activities must be framed by pedagogical principles, respect equity and ethical values but they should not replace compulsory physical education classes.

Recommendation 27 – Effort should be encouraged to improve data collection on HEPA with objective measurements at the school level.

Recommendation 28 – The European Commission should report on the progress regarding the implementation of these recommendations.