The Department for Education (DfE) has released its public consultation and is now 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.

Lobbying activity

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.

It is acknowledged that a significant proportion of those who enjoy sailing do so on a recreational (i.e. non-competitive) basis but the same is true of canoeing, cycling, equestrian, kayaking, golf, rock climbing, skiing, snowboarding and swimming, yet all of these other sports remain on the PE activity list.

The RYA believes that just because people enjoy an activity on a recreational basis, it should not preclude those who participate on a competitive basis from being assessed as part of a Physical Education GCSE, AS Level or A Level. 

The RYA’s challenge to have sailing and windsurfing reinstated is based on substantial insight and observations from within the education sector – most notably from Bill Lucas, Director of the Centre for Real-World Learning and Professor of Learning at the University of Winchester. Over the years, Professor Lucas has worked extensively with the RYA to demonstrate the vast learning and personal development opportunities available to young people through learning to sail or windsurf.

Youth development

Sailing and windsurfing are heavily influenced by natural forces. Wind speed and direction, tides and currents and the severity of the weather will have a big influence on when we take to the water and how we act when on it. Understanding these ‘uncontrollable’ elements, and how to work with them, as well as knowing that they can quickly change and managing this, are essential elements of learning to sail or windsurf and mirror similar situations and challenges that young people will meet in everyday life.

Helming a boat, charting a course and being aware of or adapting to other boats on the water also requires us to make our own decisions and choices, sometimes with little time to react. And working as part of, or perhaps leading a team, means listening, understanding and communicating and brings a new set of challenges and responsibilities that can aid character and personal development.

The situations and opportunities that sailing and windsurfing provide for young people can also build powerful connections to their home and school life, developing their people and social skills as well as their performance.

Take action today

The RYA is encouraging its members and supporters, as well as parents and teachers, to submit their own responses to the consultation. A detailed briefing paper containing the RYA’s comments on the Government’s seven criteria is available on request (contact or 023 8060 4223), which can be used as a base for consultation responses.

Howard Pridding, RYA Director of External Affairs, said: “Being on the water creates multiple situations where young people are challenged and tested as they learn a new sport or activity. That’s why we are engaging fully with the review process in an effort to have sailing and windsurfing reinstated on the PE activity list.

“We know that there is an enormous amount of passion and willingness to support the reinstatement of sailing and windsurfing to the list of assessed sports, and we hope that our 112,000-strong membership base will be able to help us to achieve this.

“The more responses there are, the more likely we are to be successful so we would encourage RYA members and the parents of sailors and windsurfers to take part in the consultation.”

Responses to the review should be submitted at: 

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