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Three years of Uniting the Movement

How we’re progressing with our mission to tackle inequalities and keep sport and physical activity central to everyone’s lives.

26th January 2024

Today marks three years since we launched Uniting the Movement, our 10-year strategy that aims to transform lives and communities in England through sport and physical activity.

The ambitious blueprint introduced a major change to the way we operate and a new understanding of our role in bringing the sector together to harness the power of activity for everyone.

As we move into its fourth year, our ongoing priority is on breaking down the barriers that prevent people from enjoying the benefits of being active.

One significant way we’re doing this is through a growing place-based approach, collaborating closely with our partners in local communities to ensure those in greatest need can be physically active.

You can read about that, and how else we're progressing with our objectives, further down the page.

How Uniting the Movement is having an impact

Chief executive's thoughts

“The third anniversary of Uniting the Movement represents an important milestone as we deliver on our long-term strategy for the sport and physical activity sector.

“There is much to celebrate. Over the last three years, we’ve seen activity levels in England recover to pre-pandemic levels and committed hundreds of millions of pounds in investment to organisations that are working on the ground to help more people enjoy the benefits of living active lives.

“These achievements have been built on strong foundations that have only been possible, however, because we have transformed the way we work.

“As an organisation, we’re more collaborative than ever and it is by building long-term partnerships, as well as being ruthless in deciding how and where we invest our money, that we’re starting to bring about the change we’re desperate to see.

“Yet we know there is so much more to do. Access to sport and physical activity is still not a level playing field. A person’s race, gender, whether they have a disability or not, and perhaps most of importantly of all where they live, all play a significant impact on how likely they are to be active. Furthermore, less than half of all children and young people are meeting the Chief Medical Officers’ guidelines of being active at least 60 minutes a day.

“I’m confident, however, that as a sector we’ve never been in a stronger position – both in our desire and the tools available to us – to bring about real change and ensure that, no matter who you are, where you come from or what your background is, you deserve an equal chance to play sport and be active.”

Tim Hollingsworth

Chief executive, Sport England

How we’re progressing with our objectives

Our implementation plan for years 2-4 of Uniting the Movement sets out what we're doing from 2022-25 to help make our mission a reality. Here’s how we’re getting on with the objectives set out in it:

  • Expanding our investment locally

    If we’re to be truly inclusive of traditionally marginalised communities, we recognise the need to meet people where they’re at, rather than expect them to come to us.

    Our local delivery pilots showed us that targeted action, with the input of local experts from trusted organisations, can deliver meaningful change.

    That’s why we’re increasing the number of places that we work with in this way.

    In November we announced £250 million of funding into our place-based initiatives, with £190 million of this focused on an additional 80-100 places which have greatest need.

    Read less
  • Working with children and young people

    In September we published the first ever Physical Literacy Consensus Statement for England.

    This is greatly influencing our drive to create positive experiences for children and young people – one of the five big issues in our strategy.

    The statement has helped 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.

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  • Connecting and supporting grassroots organisers

    Earlier this year we set up a team to learn how to better support the kinds of organisations who are best placed to deliver sport and physical activity for culturally diverse children and young people.

    This way of working has enabled us to learn more from these historically under-served groups about the problems they experience and the support they need from organisations like ours.

    We're now at the stage of co-designing the forms of support that would better meet their needs, so they can increase the impact they have in their communities and, as a result, help us meet our goal of tackling inequalities in sport and physical activity.

    We're aiming to launch a test version of this service in the summer.

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  • New support for community sport and activity

    Last month we launched Buddle, our new-look hub of free learning and support resources for volunteers and professionals working in community sport and physical activity.

    The National Lottery-funded programme includes a wealth of information, training and tools to help clubs and organisations overcome challenges and make the most of the opportunities available to them.

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  • Supporting public sector leisure

    At a challenging time for the industry, we worked with key stakeholders to produce the Future of public sector leisure report, which seeks to enable the sector to create a more sustainable future.

    It introduces a model that would see traditional leisure services transition to focus on active wellbeing, with the aim of providing users with convenient places and ways to be active, close to other health and social care services and facilities.

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  • Designing spaces for activity

    We published the third iteration of our Active Design guidance for planners and developers on how to design spaces that promote physical activity.

    Centred around a principle of 'activity for all', it seeks to help everyone involved in delivering and managing our places to create and maintain environments that encourage people to move more.

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  • Evolving our flagship campaigns

    We’ve continued to build on the success of our long-term campaigns, in particular This Girl Can.

    Our most recent insight revealed 53% of women who have heard of the campaign agree it made them think being active was possible for them – up by 7% from three years ago.

    Last summer we partnered with Tesco on an exclusive This Girl Can activewear range and later found that 81% of women who saw the partnership took some kind of action.

    We also linked up with period care brand Bodyform to launch a period hub on Studio You, our digital platform that aims to help every girl enjoy PE.

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  • Stepping up on environmental sustainability

    By working together and forging cross-sector partnerships, sport and activity can promote environmental sustainability, helping to confront challenges like climate change.

    We’ve created a strategy on this subject for Sport England that will be turned into an action plan with our partners, and for the sector, this year.

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  • Encouraging innovation in the sector

    We’ve supported organisations to understand their confidence and capabilities in digital innovation, providing benchmarking and strategic recommendations via the annual Digital Futures consultation in collaboration with ukactive.

    And we’ve continued to help partners take innovative and user-centred approaches, for example through our relationship with the Centre for the Acceleration of Social Technology to support the 21 national governing bodies involved in the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

    That followed our innovation open call to organisations, which unearthed 24 solutions that were helping people to be active during the pandemic, and our work with Design Council to develop innovation skills to overcome inequalities.

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Facts and figures illustrating our work towards achieving the goals of Uniting the Movement since its launch:

Infographic featuring facts and figures about Sport England's achievements

Other highlights from Uniting the Movement

In the last 12 months of our strategy, we have:

  • invested £14.83 million of National Lottery money to establish a national network of welfare officers who’ll mentor and support clubs across England
  • distributed £20.3 million of government money to 103 local authorities to help them keep public swimming pools open
  • announced a £5.5 million, 10-year collaboration with the West Midlands Combined Authority to improve access to sport and physical activity across the region, building on the impact of the Commonwealth Games
  • added four national governing bodies to a list of more than 120 influential organisations with whom we’ve agreed long-term partnerships. Swim England, British Taekwondo, British Taekwondo Council and Pentathlon GB could receive a total of £21 million between them over the next five years
  • funded 267 community projects across 60 partners from our £20 million Together Fund.
  • invested in more than 4,000 quality football and multi-sport pitches across England as part of a more community-led approach
  • made 872 awards from our Small Grants Programme, which seeks to develop opportunities for communities to get more people physically active
  • worked with the Innovation Unit to design tools to tackle inequalities in sport and physical activity, resulting in a set of practices and a playbook that we'll help partners to apply
  • found that 49% of women aged 14-60, who are aware of our This Girl Can campaign, report taking action as a result, up 8% on last year
  • learned that 82% of women who saw our Studio You partnership with Bodyform agree it is raising awareness of an important issue
  • found that 60% of women and girls say they feel there are opportunities for them to be physically active, up 3% on last year.

Hear more from our chief executive

What impact has it had on activity levels?

Our Active Lives surveys show that activity levels for adults in England have bounced back to where they were before the coronavirus pandemic, while children and young people’s activity levels overall have recovered to pre-pandemic levels.

However, the scale of recovery has varied across different sections of society, with women, those from lower socio-economic groups and Black and Asian people still less likely to be active than others. 

This is why Uniting the Movement has such a strong focus on addressing those disparities and why we’re investing more in the people and places that need extra support.

Looking ahead to 2024

This year we'll be simplifying the way people can apply for our funding by launching a single access point, with a focus on making the experience as straightforward as possible.

We’ll also be updating our implementation plan to share what you can expect Sport England to prioritise up to 2028.

And we’ll continue to work closely with our partners and government to advocate for the role of sport and physical activity in tackling the big issues in society.

Explore our strategy

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