Our partner Sport England recently unveiled their newest strategy 'Uniting the Movement', which will put sport and physical activity at the heart of the nation’s recovery from the pandemic. We welcome this bold and exciting vision for the future, and are primed and ready to play our part in making sport fun and accessible for all.

To accompany their new strategy, Sport England recently released their excellent Active Lives Children and Young People Survey, outlining their findings throughout the current course of the Covid-19 pandemic and addressing challenges that directly affect our core beneficiaries: children and young people in the top 20% of deprivation in the U.K. 

Text in double quotation marks (“”) has been taken directly from Sport England’s report, which you can find in full here. Text in single quotation marks (‘’) is a spoken response from our SportInspired CEO, Richard Raynes. 

Sport England’s figures covering the 2019/20 academic year show that just “44.9% of children and young people (3.2 million) met the Chief Medical Officer guidelines of taking part in sport and physical activity for an average of 60 minutes or more a day. 

This represents a decrease of 1.9% (86,500) compared to the same period 12 months ago.” 

SportInspired’s observations suggest that these percentageare likely to be exacerbated among our core beneficiaries, with many families in areas of high deprivation having been confined to small living spaces with limited room to exercise during lockdown periods. 

Sport England’s findings that “activity levels have decreased for children and young people from low affluence groups, whilst they remain unchanged compared to 12 months ago for the other two groups” (of higher affluence) support our observations. 

‘It’s essential that the realities of the Covid-19 pandemic for our beneficiaries were constantly considered when devising our response, and we thank Sport England for highlighting the inequalities in question’ said SportInspired CEO, Richard Raynes.  

‘Our beneficiaries’ living conditions, access to spaces to exercise and their supervision needs are all factored into our work, and we listen to families and teachers to understand their experience.’ 

Furthermore, the report’s statement that “those from the least affluent families are less likely to report positive attitudes to sport and exercise”, with “notable decreases in enjoyment, confidence and competence widening the gap to those from the most affluent families, is directly in line with the heart of our mission at SportInspired: to address these inequalities and make sport fun and accessible for all. These findings suggest that families in high deprivation not only struggle to remain active, but to find positive experiences in doing so. 

‘Here, Sport England highlights an incredibly important factor when it comes to getting the nation active: that a greater portion of those in high deprivation haven’t been gifted the opportunity to associate sport with positivity, fun and genuine wellbeing,’ said Raynes.  

‘Changing those attitudes is a fundamental part of what we do and why we do it.’ 

A more in-depth look into this crucial topic can be found in the section of the report titled Positive attitudes and activity levels. 

Also highlighted in Sport England’s report is that activity levels have been lowest for school years 3-4 (ages 7-9, 38%). The core beneficiaries of our 2030 vision - to help every 9 year-old in the UK’s most deprived places to reap the lifelong benefits of sport – fall into this category. 

When these findings were first forecasted, SportInspired began to prepare their FitFun resource: a toolkit of resources for key worker and vulnerable children remaining in schools as well as children and families staying indoors. To date, 310 hours of sport have been created through FitFun, with more on the way. The resource remains free, open and accessible for all who need it. 

FitFun’s focus on easy-to-follow activities with an emphasis on fun is in line with Sport England’s observation that “active play and informal activity” remains the most prevalent activity group for Years 1-11 (ages 5-16). 

FitFun was born out of a need for a fun and accessible way for children to enjoy activity, despite the fact that their worlds had been fundamentally changed,’ said Raynes. 

‘We saw sports clubs all over the country shutting their doors, and teachers were telling us that they just didn’t know how to support the children who were at school or at home during this time. 

‘It is the wellbeing of these children and young people who are at the heart of our Covid-19 response.’ 

Sport England observed the same realities, stating that some activities that children were used to doing became entirely unavailable during the pandemic, either due to the majority of children not being in school or because facilities were closed. 

It’s findings like these that informed the next stage of our Covid-19 response, as we pivoted to virtual sports programmes and began bringing our ‘Spirit Games’ to children who had to remain in school remotely via video streaming. 87% of children reported to us that they enjoyed sport more after the festivals, and 100% of our volunteers said they’d volunteer again. 

Following this, we were able to bring sports clubs to schools who were still teaching vulnerable and key worker children, with activities like yoga, karate, and dance taking place. 

It is for this reason that we join Sport England in extending our thanks to the dedication and resourcefulness of parents, teachers, coaches and organisations who deliver activities” during the pandemic, without which we couldn’t have put our programmes in place. The cooperation of these groups has meant that the drop [in activity levels] during the period between mid-May and late-July (when restrictions started to ease) was significantly less than it was for adults earlier in the pandemic. A collective effort in 'Uniting the Movement' cannot be possible without the help of the above groups, so we are excited to move forward together.

‘It became apparent that our Covid-19 response would be marathon not a sprint, and that to achieve it we would need the help of the teachers, sports providers and families in our network, as well as Sport England and our other major partners,’ said Raynes. 

‘It’s by working together to address the inequalities highlighted by Sport England that we will move toward a future where all children, no matter their background, can use sport as a catalyst for following their dreams.’