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Physical Literacy Consensus Statement for England published

The statement will help us understand how our relationship with sport and physical activity changes over our lifetime and is shaped by our experiences and our opportunities to be active.

28th September 2023

The Physical Literacy Consensus Statement for England has been revealed at a conference in London.

More than 100 people from across the academic and sport and physical activity sectors gathered at the Royal Society of Arts today for ‘Positive Experiences for Children and Young People: A spotlight on Physical Literacy’.

The event represented a culmination of 18 months’ work and explored the importance of physical literacy in providing positive experiences of movement and physical activity for all – a key priority in our Uniting the Movement strategy.

Physical literacy infographic showing our relationship with movement and activity throughout life.

The Physical Literacy Consensus Statement for England has been developed to facilitate a shared understanding of physical literacy for those working in the sport, education, physical activity, recreation, play, health and youth sectors.

The statement offers a broad overview of physical literacy, why it matters and how it can be developed and supported.

Developing consensus on the term physical literacy has been a priority, as understanding what impacts people’s relationship with movement and physical activity throughout life will enable those working in the sector to ensure their offer is as appealing as possible.

Tim Hollingsworth, our chief executive, believes the new consensus statement will be important in helping us deliver on the ambitions of our long-term strategy.

“In Uniting the Movement, we said that every child and young person has the right to be active, to benefit from being active in a safe, positive and trusted environment, and to have an equal chance to achieve their potential,” he said.

“We must ensure children and young people have positive experiences of sport and physical activity that are fun, inclusive and help them develop.

“The new Physical Literacy Consensus Statement for England provides a framework to help us explore this in greater depth and is relevant for all ages and everyone working to improve the activity levels and health of our nation. 

“It must be seen as one of the first steps in our efforts to promote positive experiences and lifelong participation for all children and young people, but particularly for those who face the greatest inequalities.

"Putting the concept of physical literacy into practice is now our collective task.”

Positive Experiences for All: The Physical Literacy Consensus Statement for England in full

Physical literacy is our relationship with movement and physical activity throughout life.

  • Understanding physical literacy

    Physical literacy refers to the degree to which we have a positive and meaningful relationship with movement and physical activity.

    It's a complex and ever-changing relationship.

    It reflects our connection and commitment to movement and physical activity, influenced by various factors such as our thoughts, feelings, engagement, and experiences.

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  • Why physical literacy matters

    The quality of our relationship with movement and physical activity profoundly influences our choice to be active.

    Having a positive and meaningful relationship with movement and physical activity makes us more likely to be and stay active, benefiting our health, wellbeing and quality of life.

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  • Supporting physical literacy

    How we move, connect, think and feel during movement and physical activity plays a crucial role in shaping our physical literacy.

    By doing activities that we enjoy, find meaningful, and value, we deepen our connection with movement and physical activity, and foster an ongoing commitment to maintain an active lifestyle.

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  • Our experiences affect our physical literacy

    The people we interact with, the communities we're part of, the culture we experience and the places and spaces we move in, powerfully influence our physical literacy.

    These influences may be positive or negative.

    Positive experiences of movement and physical activity that meet our needs and support our development encourage us to be active in the future.

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  • Physical literacy is personal

    Everyone has their own strengths, needs, circumstances, and past experiences that affect their relationship with movement and physical activity.

    Our physical literacy is therefore unique and changes over our lifetime.

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Sport England's Georgina Howe presents at the Physical Literacy Consensus Statement for England launch event

The consensus statement was created by an expert group of researchers and professionals, including those from Liverpool John Moores University, Coventry University, the University of Bradford and the University of Gloucestershire.

It was finalised following an extensive consultation and included feedback from those working and volunteering in the sport and physical activity sector.

At today’s event, a range of thought leaders helped unpack the consensus statement and considered how the sector could evolve their practice by embedding the principles of physical literacy.

Attendees, who represented around 100 organisations, were able reflect on what the statement meant for them at a series of interactive workshops.

Why does this matter?

Our Active Lives surveys have told us that just 47% of children and 63% of adults are meeting the Chief Medical Officers’ guidelines.

Furthermore, we know that 30% of children and 26% of adults do less than an average of 30 minutes activity a day.

There are also significant inequalities, with a person’s ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status and age all impacting how likely they are to be physically active.

However, research shows that children with high levels of physical literacy are twice as likely to engage in sport and physical activity and adults who feel strongly that they have the ability to be active, the opportunity to be active and enjoy being active are also more likely to be active. 

To help more people be active it's important everyone involved in the provision of sport and physical activity understands that there's more to it than helping someone develop their physical movement skills.

We must also consider how a person moves, connects, thinks and feels about movement and how their environment, culture, community or places and spaces they move in can powerfully influence their relationship with movement in both positive and negative ways.

By understanding what contributes to a person’s physical literacy, we can adapt and evolve our policies, practices and programmes to ensure it meets all of their needs.

Perspectives on physical literacy

The creation of the Physical Literacy Consensus Statement for England was a collective process, informed by a range of perspectives.

We embarked on a journey to capture various perspectives that illuminate the essence of physical literacy.

These stories – captured in an audio format – emphasise that physical literacy is an inclusive concept accessible to everyone.

What happens next?

The consensus statement itself will be supported by a series of resources that help bring the concept of physical literacy to life for our sector, including audio stories and a more detailed booklet to situate the consensus statement into a wider context.

Sport England will continue to work with national and local organisations to embed the philosophy of physical literacy into the structures and systems that influence children and young people’s activity levels.

Detailed plans are being developed and will be influenced by insights gathered at today's event.

Further reading

International physical literacy and the Big Apple

Our senior manager for children and young people Charlie Crane shares the insight and perspective gained by attending the recent physical literacy conference in New York.

Read more

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