Lewisham schools pilot programme sets a positive example

Personal Best Foundation ambassador’s Donna Fraser OBE and Emmanuel Oyinbo-Coker were in action at Downderry Primary School in Lewisham earlier today, lending their support to England Athletics as they hosted the second in a series of All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Running events.

Downderry Primary School was the first school to benefit from the Personal Best Foundation’s after-school pilot programme and therefore a fitting venue in which to host a conversation about the importance of sport and physical activity within the curriculum and beyond.  

Kim, Donna and Emmanuel at Downderry Primary School

Today’s event follows on from the open letter launched by England Athletics and Partners* in October, with a further call from Kim Leadbetter MP – chair of the APPG – for MPs to recognise the need for more support for physical and mental health amongst children.

Emmanuel, a Commonwealth Games gold-medallist, teamed up with Olympian Donna Fraser OBE to open the event, joining in with 40 schoolchildren participating in run, jump, throw ‘funetics’ activities, showcasing some of the fundamental skills that they have been enjoying through their after-school ’funetics’ sessions as part of the Personal Best Foundation pilot.

Following the funetics session, Kim Leadbeater MP led a conversation with the school prefects before hosting a panel session with Emmanuel, Donna plus Vicci Wells, Head of Sport at the Youth Sport Trust, on the topic of physical literacy and well-being at the heart of the curriculum.

Speaking during the event, Leadbeater said:

“It was great to be at Downderry Primary School today - a huge thank you to England Athletics, The Daily Mail, London Marathon Events and the Personal Best Foundation for their collaboration on the event. Bringing organisations together to create a joined-up approach is important in achieving political change.  

“I get quite frustrated with the lack of political leadership in this space - really understanding the value of sport and physical activity in our communities, for our young people and for our families, is something I’m really trying to champion. We need to look at how we can do more to support our young people to be happy and healthy, to support our grass roots clubs who can do amazing things, and to take a much more holistic approach.” 

Closing the event, Emmanuel read the Open Letter, emphasising:

“We’re calling on all party leaders to put physical and health literacy at the heart of the future school curriculum, giving all children and young people access to high-quality PE, co-curricular activity, and community provision." 

Personal Best Foundation Chair of Trustees Mark Lawrie said:

“We were delighted that Downderry Primary School was selected to host this event. The school is inspirational and it’s clear that the children are greatly enjoying their funetics sessions. It was wonderful to give them the opportunity to meet and pose questions to our ambassadors Donna and Emmanuel.

Our pilot schools programme is a great example of how greater access to sport and physical activity can be provided to children and young people. The programme prioritises free provision to after-school athletics activity in areas of high deprivation. We recognise that cost and transport are two significant barriers that prevent children from accessing after-school sports clubs. By ensuring that children have access to high quality after-school clubs held on school sites we are ensuring that all children irrespective of personal circumstance have the opportunity to be physically active”

England Athletics CEO Chris Jones explains:

“Sport has the potential to play a pivotal role in a child’s development across academic attainment, mental health and physical well-being and we are proud to deliver programmes aimed specifically for children in conjunction with our partners.

“A huge thank you to the school children at Downderry Primary School for brilliantly showcasing funetics today. The school was a particularly fitting venue for our event as it is the first school to benefit from the Personal Best Foundation’s After School Pilot Programme, which aims to deliver high quality athletics clubs within schools and prioritising free access to those children on free school meals. 

“Today was another successful APPG event, but there is still more which can be done, so we continue our call to the political party leaders to facilitate more access to sport and physical activity to help alleviate the mental health epidemic in the UK.”