What do we value in our lives? I posed this question last week at a conference for the Local Government Association (LGA). I suggested that for most it’s a combination of a number of things: the welfare of the people closest to us, the quality and safety of our homes, and the strength of the local community where we work and relax. And, crucially, the health and happiness of our children as they grow up to become adults.
And it’s that final point that has been at the front of my mind this week. What can we do to make physical activity the golden thread that supports our children’s growth and happiness? How can we combat the rising physical and mental health challenges faced by young people in the UK today?
At the LGA Conference I called for a new alliance between physical activity providers and local authorities, to strengthen the links that bring so many people better health through exercise. These partnerships are crucial and it’s that theme of collaboration that, I believe, holds the key to answering those pressing questions about our children’s future too.
It’s why ukactive, supported by its new Kids Council, began a consultation yesterday (12 March) to offer everyone the chance to have a say on the best ways to engage children in physical activity. It’s been nearly three years since the publication of our Generation Inactive report, which showed the scale of the crisis we face, the undeniable truth that fitness levels in our classrooms had dropped critically low. Now it’s time for our next major report, one which will take us from playground to policy – the case for a new, national approach to children’s physical activity.
As the slogan says, “Nothing about us, without us”. We want everyone, including children, to help us develop a national physical activity approach that gets more children more active, more often. That means opening up more opportunities for physical activity and making it more accessible to all, regardless of social status or background. We know that during the summer holidays, the poorest 25% of children experience a drop in their fitness levels 18 times greater than the richest 25%. We have to close that gap.
We know there are some great programmes out there, from the startups to the big operators. We need to draw on the collective, to gather your stories of success from our playgrounds, activity centres and communities, to harness the practical evidence required to prove the case to Government when we publish this report at our National Summit on 12 September.
Who are the experts? Well, they are the children, parents, teachers, activity providers, social workers, policymakers, business leaders, healthcare professionals and other stakeholders with the knowledge of what approach really works. We need to take a wide-lens view in order to shape the physical activity landscape for young people, including the organisations and institutions they use, and the physical and the social environments they experience.
This report could be the final piece of the jigsaw. If we can build the case for a nationwide community partnership approach using your evidence, we can give our children the best chance to grow into the healthy, productive adults our society needs.
Make your submission by completing a simple online questionnaire at: ukactivekids.com
The deadline for responses is Friday 1 June 2018.