It is no secret that the pandemic has had a catastrophic effect on children’s activity levels – expecially amongst this country’s poorest communities. But now, as the country begins to open up and provide increased opportunities for sport and play, we can look ahead to a brighter future. With lengthy lockdowns now looking to be thing of the past, sports clubs and facilities are opening their doors for good. The job of repairing children’s broken connection with sport and play must begin – and quickly.


New findings from Sport England


The 2020-21 academic year saw 94,000 fewer active children and young people, according to a new survey from Sport England. In addition, COVID-19 restrictions and school closures negatively impacted students’ physical and mental well-being, with many disadvantaged children having less space and opportunity to exercise than their affluent peers.

The report also showed worrying figures among children in years 3-4 - SportInspired’s target age groups - solidifying our need to reach more children than ever in 2022. Although Sport England recognised a positive association between participation in sport and greater mental well-being, years 3-4 were less likely to benefit from this, causing weaker mental health and confidence.

In addition, seven to-nine-year-olds were the most affected age group, with only 38% getting enough daily activity. School years 3-4 performed the lowest in activity levels and reported the least positive attitudes. More widely, the report showed that 32.4% (2.3 million) children now do less than an average of 30 active minutes a day. This falls below the Chief Medical Officer guidelines, recommending children engage in sport and physical activity for an average of 60 minutes or more every day.


Inequalities in sport must be addressed


Children growing up in poverty are three times more likely to suffer mental health issues and twice as likely to face obesity than their more affluent peers, and that was before the pandemic exacerbated inequalities. Inequalities for children of colour heightened during the 2020-21 academic year, with only 36% of black children and young people likely to be active compared to 48% of white children. The survey found that this divide was predominantly because black children and young people are twice as likely to come from less affluent families. Only 39% of children from less affluent families engaged in sport and physical activity, making them the least active group. It is findings like these which prove our need to stay firmly active in UK communities which fall into the top 20% of deprivation, helping to combat inequalities and ensure sport is available to all.


Our plan for 2022


As schools transition into 2022, children’s physical and mental wellness requires extra attention. Sport England’s Insight Director, Lisa O’Keefe, said, “the recovery of activity levels to pre-pandemic levels may take some time and certainly a collective and concerted effort.”

At SportInspired, we recognise the effort it takes to get children back into fitness. SportInspired works directly with children and young people from the UK’s most deprived communities by connecting them local sports clubs, helping them to find and take up sport in a fun environment. We believe that helping children find sports they enjoy won’t just improve the activity levels reported across deprived communities, but help them to build the resilience and self confidence needed to thrive in later life.

Sport England’s survey proved that 8-9 year-olds were the least active in the 2020-21 school year, and we will target this age range because it is a crucial moment for maximum impact and long-term behaviour change. 

 “This is a pivotal moment for us as a charity,” said SportInspired CEO, Richard Raynes.

 “SportEngland’s survey proves that the very same beneficiaries we target – 8-9 year olds living in areas of high deprivation – are the children who must be prioritised as the UK rebuilds after Covid-19. We will do everything in our power to give them chances to play and prosper.”


Nurturing a love for sport and play


In 2022, SportInspired will host various events at schools and sports facilities across the UK to promote active lifestyles, nutrition, teamwork and self-belief. Our 9-12 week programme is made up of three phases:

1. Co-Create

A 3-month process connecting 3-5 primary schools and 250 children with six exhilarating sports clubs to participate in (i.e. martial arts, street dance, volleyball, boccia or parkour).

2. Festival

All 250 children attend a high-octane sporting festival where they get the chance to try all six sports in one day.

3. Legacy

Children self-select the sport they enjoy most. Those sports are then set up as legacy clubs in their schools for an optimum period of 20 weeks, with further activity possible via school provision. SportInspired covers all participation, travel and kit costs.  


SportInspired’s past programmes have succeeded with 30% of previously inactive children (8-9) taking up a new sport. Additionally, 50% of children reported being more confident and 74% more engaged in school as a result.

To learn more about SportInspired or get involved in our programmes, reach out 24/7 at [email protected]