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School's out for summer

To mark national Playday, our senior manager for children and young people blogs on the importance of children and young people getting or remaining active during the summer holidays.

2nd August 2023

by Charlie Crane
Senior manager children and young people, Sport England

Now that schools have broken up for the year, children up and down the country will be excited to dive into their summer holiday plans!

And at the same time, parents up and down the country will ask themselves what can be done so kids are not on their screens the whole day? And, actually is it really a big deal if they are?

Well yes, it is.

One thing at the forefront of our minds here at Sport England is how families and communities can help children and young people stay active during the summer holiday.

While the physical and mental benefits of being active are more widely discussed and understood, research by ukactive and Premier Sport back in 2017 showed that the fitness levels of the most deprived children fell significantly during the summer holidays compared to their more affluent peers.

Unfortunately, for a lot of people the cost-of-living crisis may mean that summer camps aren’t affordable and researchers believe that the prohibitive cost of holiday programmes contributes to the plummet of activity levels over the summer holidays.

One of our system partners, StreetGames, does some fantastic work to support young people who face hardship, hunger and isolation during the school holidays.

And their Fit and Fed programme has benefited over 66,000 children and young people since it launched in 2016.

In 2021, the government announced an investment of over £200 million per year over the following three financial years for the Holiday Activities and Food Programme (HAF) aimed at supporting children in low-income households through holiday periods.

A number of our system partners, including Active Partnerships and the Youth Sport Trust, are involved locally in supporting HAF and StreetGames also play an active role in supporting local authorities through training and support to deliver a wholly effective HAF programmes.

But, as a sector, we have a collective responsibility to ensure initiatives like HAF provide positive experiences of sport and physical activity for children and young people.

This will give children a love of movement and will help to reduce the summer holiday inactivity decline.

It's not all sport and no play

As we celebrate National Playday, we want to highlight our research that active play and informal activity is the most common activity among children and young people aged 5-16. 

Learnings from our Families Fund also highlight that families enjoy being active together and there are some great initiatives already available to support them in doing this more.

For instance, ParkPlay provides two hours of free community play each week and Playing Out supplies children with a safe space to play on their doorstep.

The summer period is the perfect opportunity to let children be imaginative, creative and free to just be themselves.

And from a coaching perspective, the Play Their Way campaign prioritises the fundamental rights of all children and young people to enjoy sport and activity.

This programme is led by the Children’s Coaching Collaborative and has some great resources on how young people can shape, choose and take a lead on what play looks like for them.

We hope that the summer holiday is an enjoyable and active break for children and families across England.

I find that the more my children play and be active, the more likely they are to have a deep recovery sleep so it’s a win-win situation for everyone!

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