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Positive experiences for children and young people

Uniting the Movement

This page is all about one of the five big issues - keep reading, or go to our main strategy page.

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.

Positive experiences at an early age help build the foundations for an active life. If children and young people have experiences that feel fun, positive and give them a sense of confidence, they’re more likely to want to be active in the future.

Sport and physical activity can do so much good for our mental and physical wellbeing, and for children this is even more profound: there’s evidence obesity levels are increasing and mental health deteriorating – rates of 5-16-year-olds who may have had problems with aspects of their mental health to such an extent that it impacted their daily lives, has increased from one in nine in 2017, to one in six in 2020. 

Children who are more active are happier, more resilient and more trusting of others, but over half aged 5-16 are not active enough to enjoy these benefits, and activity levels among young adults aged 16-34 have also begun to decline. This can and must change.

While the current system works for many children, it doesn’t work for everyone. Some don’t have the same opportunities to be active, so they deserve extra support. 

This is particularly true for girls, disabled young people, young people with long-term health conditions, those from less affluent families and youngsters from Black and Asian backgrounds. Current inequalities in sport and activity unfortunately start from a young age and they need to be addressed. 

43%

of girls are active, compared to 47% of boys

Physical literacy

A combination of a person’s enjoyment, confidence, competence (how easy they find it), understanding (that it’s beneficial) and knowledge (knowing how to get involved and improve). The more elements a child or young person strongly agrees they have, the more active they’re likely to be.

Fewer than one in five children consider themselves to be physically literate, and this declines with age as secondary-aged children feel less confident, competent and gain less enjoyment from sport and activity. This often means they spend their time in other ways and there can be negative consequences for their wellbeing. 

What’s enjoyable and positive varies for different children and young people, so our aim must be for all to get an experience which meets their rapidly changing needs. 

Some will want to go on to fulfil their physical or sporting potential on the international stage, and that must be encouraged. We need to make sure every young person has the same opportunities to succeed, with equal access to the entry points and pathways that underpin the talent system, and have experiences that are positive.

Our starting point is that all children, irrespective of their abilities, should enjoy being active.

Our ambition

We want every child and young person to experience the enjoyment and benefits that being active can bring. Their needs, expectations and safety should come first in the design and delivery of activity.

What we'll focus on

Enjoyment

All children, irrespective of their abilities, should enjoy being active.

What's enjoyable and positive varies for different children and young people, so our aim must be for all to get an experience which meets their rapidly changing needs.

  • Putting an even stronger spotlight on safeguarding, so children and young people feel and are safe when being active, and parents are confident it’s a safe choice with the welfare of their children paramount
  • Putting children and young people first, involving them and their families in decisions and designing relevant opportunities
  • Improving physical literacy, so children and young people have a great experience which builds their understanding and knowledge of how to be active, their confidence and competence, but above all their enjoyment
  • Improving the mental wellbeing of children and young people through sport and physical activity, by working with and alongside those who want to do the same
  • Transforming the way people, paid or unpaid, who help children and young people get active are developed, recognised and empowered to deliver quality experiences
  • Creating and protecting quality and safe places and spaces for children to play and enjoy being active outdoors, and helping create more choice and better access to inclusive opportunities to get active in the community
  • Influencing the design and delivery of physical activity in education settings by building on key relationships, including with the Department for Education, so every child and young person has a great experience and a broad choice
  • Transforming the experiences of all children and young people and ensuring there’s equal access to England’s Talent Pathways, so our national teams truly represent the diversity of our nation
  • Supporting parents and carers to understand the importance of movement and enjoyment for children and young people, because of their important role as enablers, decision-makers and role models
  • Embracing technology and the digital world so being active is easier, more attractive and more relevant to the digitally-savvy, while being mindful of potential negatives.
Doing things differently

Frindsbury Tennis Satellite Club

Loud pop music isn’t the first thing you think of when you picture people playing tennis.

But that’s exactly what you’ll find at Brompton Academy, where Frindsbury Tennis Satellite Club offers these fun and innovative weekly sessions to pupils.

By mixing the latest chart hits and sport, the sessions allow young people to try tennis in a more relaxed, less structured way than they’d normally encounter at a specialist club.

As the school is based in one of the most deprived areas of Medway in Kent, this unique approach also takes the sport to those who may otherwise not have the opportunity to take part.

This example, from just one of the satellite clubs we’ve funded, shows how we can help and inspire children and young people to be physically active by working together and connecting schools with their local sports clubs.

This different approach also aims to improve the physical activity levels, mental health, wellbeing and social development of young people, change their perceptions of sport and physical activity, reduce antisocial behaviour and enhance their local environment to create happier and healthier communities.

Each tennis session embraces a ‘just turn up’ approach to welcome less active young people into a relaxed and friendly environment that breaks down barriers to activity.

The impact has been significant, with nine out of 10 young people taking part saying they enjoyed doing exercise and sport after three months of the programme.

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