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World Children’s Day

Our senior manager for children and young people celebrates this annual event by discussing the importance of protecting the wellbeing of children and how this impacts our work.

20th November 2023

by Naomi Beckles
Senior manager for children and young people, Sport England

Today, like every year since 1954 we celebrate World Children’s Day - but what's it all about, and why is it so important for us at Sport England?

World Children’s Day is UNICEF’s day of action to stand up for the rights of children worldwide and on this day 34 years ago the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) was adopted.

The day aims to raise awareness of the importance of protecting the wellbeing of children, advocating for their rights and for their voices to be heard.

Young children playing tennis outdoors

What we know about children and young people 

Every year we produce the Active Lives Children and Young People Survey which gathers insight into their physical activity levels and, as a result, we know that ethnicity, gender and family affluence impact on the likelihood of a child being active.

Some of the findings from our latest survey include:

  • More than half of children and young people aged 5-16 are not meeting the Chief Medical Officers' guidelines
  • Boys are more likely to be active than girls
  • Children and young people from low affluent families are the least likely to be active
  • Children and young people of Black, Asian, and Other ethnicities are the least likely to be active.

So what can we do?

An ambition of our long-term strategy, Uniting the Movement, is for every child and young person to experience the enjoyment and benefits that being active can bring.

This includes ensuring their needs, expectations and safety comes first in the design and delivery of any physical activity they may want to pursue.

We have a focus on safeguarding so children and young people feel, and are, safe when being active that and parents are confident it’s a safe choice, with the welfare of their children paramount.

But we know we can’t do this on our own, so we want to learn from others and play our role in supporting organisations to make a difference.

We're part of The Children’s Coaching Collaborative (CCC) –  a collective of 17 organisations within the sport and physical activity sector and wider, with the common purpose to create a nation of child-first coaches.

We work in partnership with the CCC and Play Their Way, a grassroots coaching campaign launched in May 2023 that, at its heart, has the mission of ensuring the rights of children are respected.

The UNCRC sets out 54 rights covering all aspects of a child’s life.

When thinking specifically about sport and physical activity, the campaign has focused on the following three which underpin the campaign’s three pillars:

  • Voice (the right to be heard - article 12) - children and young people have the right to express their views, which are acted on together in a meaningful way.
  • Choice (the right to play – article 31) – children and young people have the right to play and shape what play looks like.
  • Journey (the right to develop - article 6) – children and young people have the right to develop holistically in their own way.

An ambition of our long-term strategy, Uniting the Movement, is for every child and young person to experience the enjoyment and benefits that being active can bring.

If you’re a coach or organisation, you can find out more on how to support the movement, take the Play Their Way Promise and help children to have a voice, choice and journey to give them a positive experience.

As we celebrate children and their rights taking central stage, we also want to highlight  #iwill week - a movement that supports children and young people to be empowered to make positive differences on the issues that affect their lives, their communities and the broader society.

#iwill have developed a Power of Youth Charter - a collaborative effort for which 200+ organisations have currently signed up to showcase their commitment to take action to empower young people.

We're also placing a focus on the voices of young people and want to embed this to improve the opportunities available to children and young people to be active, as well as encouraging more children to take part in physical activity by providing an offer that meets their needs.

This is a new and broad area for us to work upon, but we believe it could have a positive impact in supporting more children and young people to take part in and enjoy physical activity.  

We'll be supported by our own innovation team as well as external organisation The Innovation Unit and together we'll test different approaches to explore the role we can play in embedding youth voice across the sector and within our own organisation.

In order to support this audience we want and need the voices of young people to be at the centre of our work.

We'll learn from organisations already working in this way, collating best practices and learning from their challenges.

This first-hand learning will help us to advocate within the sector - because although World Children’s Day is only one day, we want to encourage individuals and organisations to reflect on it and act to ensure that within sport and physical activity a child’s wellbeing is protected, their rights considered and their voices heard.

Every day of the year.

Find out more

World Children's Day

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