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Reopening of schools vital to boost children's activity levels

Lockdown has had an impact on children's activity levels, so the reopening of schools is an important moment to help increase the amount of sport and activity they're doing.

2nd September 2020

The hugely important role played by schools in helping children build a healthy relationship with sport and physical activity is being emphasised as they reopen.

Our chief executive Tim Hollingsworth said: “Large numbers of children tell us that not being at school has negatively impacted on their ability to get active”.

So with schools across England now reopening, this is a crucial time to help children increase the amount of sport and activity they’re doing.

A group of schoolchildren playing netball inside a sports hall.

We know through our Active Lives Children and Young People Survey that when young people play sport and are active, it doesn’t just benefit their physical health.   

The survey has given us strong evidence that active children are happier, more resilient and more trusting of others, and there’s a strong association between young people being active and better mental health.  

On top of this, there’s a wealth of evidence that suggests being active has positive benefits on students’ behaviour, attendance and academic results at school.   

We want children to develop a healthy relationship with sport and physical activity and build habits that will benefit them throughout their lives.

Tim Hollingsworth

Chief executive, Sport England

Last year, 46.8% (3.3 million) of children in England were meeting Chief Medical Officer guidelines of an average of 60 minutes of activity per day across a week.

But during lockdown, with schools closed and fewer opportunities to use facilities and play formal sport, these figures dropped significantly.   

Data we commissioned Savanta ComRes to collect from parents over the summer suggests that activity levels fell to less than a fifth (19%) of children meeting the recommended guidelines, while a separate survey of children we conducted with Childwise in May found a third said the absence of school during the height of the pandemic had a major impact on their ability to be active.

Tim added: “We want children to develop a healthy relationship with sport and physical activity and build habits that will benefit them throughout their lives.

“We know that both parents and teachers are under pressure in so many areas right now, but our message would be that their role is absolutely vital in supporting our children to be more active and in turn healthier and more resilient.

“Whether that’s encouraging children to walk or cycle to school safely, making break times and lessons active or delivering PE sessions that children want and enjoy, it all counts.”

The research also showed that teenage girls, Black, Asian and poorer children are relying more than others on ‘at school’ provision to be physically active in their everyday lives.

This makes clear the vitally important role that school settings play in supporting children to be active, from informal play right through to formal team sport.

Investing in children's activity

Recognising the important role schools play in supporting children to be more active and healthier, alongside the government we’ve been investing directly into children’s activity and sport in school settings in recent years, including through the School Sport and Activity Action Plan and PE and Sport Premium.  

Some £13.5 million has gone into a secondary teacher training programme, offering professional development opportunities to staff in over 2,000 schools across England to help put pupil’s needs and enjoyment at the heart of PE and school sport, while £26m has been invested into Satellite Clubs to engage children and young people in sport outside the school day and over £16m is supporting the School Games.  

Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston said:  “Schools and teachers are working incredibly hard to reopen safely and we will support them in helping children get fit and healthy as they return.  

"Playing sport and being active is vital for young people's physical and mental health, whilst also improving behaviour and concentration. Sport is a crucial part of school life, and now more so than ever."

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