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    Department for Education Consultation Briefing


    The Department for Education (DfE) has released its public consultation and is inviting proposals to add activities to the published GCSE, AS and A level physical education (PE) activity list.

    Sailing and windsurfing, along with several other sports, were removed by the DfE from the list of activities eligible for practical assessment at GCSE, AS-level and A-level in 2014.

    The DfE’s Awarding Organisations determined that students cannot be assessed in a recreational form of the activity. Their list is based upon the suitability of activities as a means of assessing students' skills as part of a physical education qualification.

    The RYA challenged the Awarding Organisations’ analysis of the suitability of activities to be included in the eligible list, both in its response to the DfE’s initial consultation and directly with the Secretary of State for Education, on the basis that the Awarding Organisations’ assessment methodologies was flawed and that sailing and windsurfing were no more difficult to assess than several other sports that remain on the list.

    Since the DfE confirmed its decision in 2014, the RYA has continued to lobby the Secretary of State for Education and the Sports Minister in an effort to have sailing and windsurfing reinstated in the list of eligible activities.

    Criteria for inclusion

    Taking each of the Awarding Organisations’ criteria into consideration, here’s why the RYA believes sailing should be included on the PE activity list:

    1. The range and demand of skills and techniques in the activity

    The stated intention is to ensure that the eligible activities are comparably rigorous, requiring performance skills of sufficient difficulty, and there is parity of assessment across practical activities. Sailing is no less rigorous than either rowing or canoeing, which is reflected in the fact that all three of these sports are included within the Summer Olympic Games. Not only does sailing involve vigorous physical activity and require an understanding of the waters on which it takes place, sailing also requires a detailed understanding of wind and weather. The range and demand of skills and techniques involved in sailing is therefore arguably considerably greater than required for paddle sports such as rowing and canoeing (both of which sports remain on the list).

    2. The application of tactics/strategies/composition in the activity

    Whether team-racing or fleet-racing, competitive sailing requires a detailed understanding of tactics and strategies in order to overcome not only other competitors but also adverse wind and weather conditions. Indeed, in our view sailing unquestionably delivers against this consideration whereas the same cannot be said for some of the other activities contained on the list.

    3. The ability to develop skills over a significant period of time

    Although the rudiments of recreational sailing might be acquired in a relatively short time span, as might the ability to swim or to ride a bicycle, proficiency in competitive sailing cannot be attained within such a timeframe. Competitive sailors must develop their skills over many years and sailing is no different in this regard from canoeing, cycling, equestrian, kayaking, golf, rock climbing, skiing, snowboarding or swimming, all of which remain on the list.

    4. Suitable conditions in which to perform

    Sailing offers a wide range of competitive or formal conditions in which students can be assessed, on coastal and inland waters throughout the UK, from weekly club racing to national and international championships.

    5. The level of performance can be realistically assessed by PE practitioners

    We acknowledge that sailing is a sport that requires specialist knowledge and that many PE practitioners may not be comfortable assessing achievement within it. Nevertheless, the same could be said of canoeing, equestrian, kayaking, golf, rock climbing, skiing or snowboarding, all of which remain on the list.

    Sailing has been cited as being a sport that does not lend itself to the gathering of filmed evidence of a suitable quality to enable reliable assessment and moderation. This assumption is misconceived, however, since the technology that enables skiing and snowboarding to beassessed by way of video evidence is easily transferable to the sport of sailing. In any event, competitive sailing is readily capable of being moderated live (unlike skiing and snowboarding, it takes place in all parts of the UK) and there is no need for assessment to be undertaken by way of video evidence.

    6. The activity’s impact on people with relevant protected characteristics

    Sailing and windsurfing enable participants to perform and compete fairly and on an equal basis, irrespective of sex, age, disability, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation, pregnancy and maternity, marriage and civil partnership, gender reassignment or social status.

    Sailing is one of the very few sports in which able-bodied sailors and disabled sailors can participate on equal terms, from local club racing to international competitions. In this respect, sailing is a much stronger candidate for assessment as part of a Physical Education GCSE, AS Level or A Level than many of the other sports that are included in the list.

    7. The resource and workload impact of any changes, and consider the amount of time exam centres would need to implement them

    There are 25,000 RYA Instructors and 350 qualified coach assessors already operating within an established network of 1,500 fully-equipped RYA Recognised Training Centres and Affiliated Clubs, using a structured scheme and syllabus. Coupled with the well-regarded and robust squad system, this means that the assessment of sailing and windsurfing will not increase workload as long as the criteria and routes to assessing it are clearly laid out – as is the case with all of the activities included on the PE list.

    It is also worth noting that not every school or college has pool facilities, but swimming is included on the list. Meanwhile, the accessibility of the many lakes, lochs, rivers, estuaries and coastal waters across the country demonstrate that sailing and windsurfing are no more difficult to assess than the sports that are included on the list.

    The RYA is encouraging its members and supporters, as well as parents and teachers, to submit their own responses to the consultation.

    The RYA’s comments on the Government’s seven criteria (above) can be used as a base for consultation responses.

    The more responses there are, the more likely we are to be successful in lobbying for the reinstatement of sailing and windsurfing on the GCSE, AS and A level physical education (PE) activity list.

    The public consultation closes on 20 December 2018

    For more guidance on how to respond to the consultation, please contact the RYA Cruising, Legal and Government Affairs team at

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