As part of their work to support the nation to move more, Active Partnerships in collaboration with national partners ukactive, StreetGames, and the Youth Sport Trust, have been awarded up to £57m from the Department for Education, to help schools to open their sports facilities outside of the school day in areas where it is needed the most.
The three-year Opening School Facilities investment will be allocated by all 43 Active Partnerships across England, working locally to identify the areas of greatest need. Locations will be targeted where health and social inequalities exist, enabling better access to physical activity opportunities for those who find it more challenging to be active.
As well as supporting schools to provide more out-of-school opportunities for their school children and community users, priority will be given to projects encouraging women and girls to be more active, those that help disadvantaged and culturally diverse communities, and those supporting special educational needs, disabilities, or long-term health conditions.
Huw Edwards, CEO of ukactive, said: “This commitment from the Department for Education is an important step in our shared mission to make physical activity and sport accessible for every child and young person.
“Opening up school gates during out of school times can unlock access and opportunity to participate in sport and physical activity, providing children and young people with safe spaces to play, socialise, and ultimately, to lead happier, healthier lives.
“The ukactive Research Institute is the proud evaluation partner of the Opening School Facilities programme and we look forward to working with the Active Partnerships Network to ensure we maximise this opportunity to engage children successfully.”
Andy Taylor, Chief Executive for Active Partnerships National Team, said: “We are delighted that schools across England will receive a share of this new three-year investment to help them open up their sporting facilities outside of the normal school day.
“Our network of 43 Active Partnerships will support schools to develop and deliver their plans, working together to identify those local communities facing the greatest inequalities and help give them access to more varied opportunities to be physically active. We aim to engage with 1,350 schools throughout the funding programme.
“As well as using the funding in this way to achieve the biggest impact possible, it is imperative that the investment creates sustainable physical activity programmes to continue to support communities to move more for their health and wellbeing for many years to come.
“We will be helping schools to create the right environment where those projects can continue, giving more people the chance to be, and remain, active.”
Schools can use this funding to purchase equipment to deliver new or additional clubs, to train employees to obtain qualifications to deliver new or additional activities, and to pay for activity deliverers to run the clubs. They can also use funding to open their school swimming pools for pupils, focusing on providing valuable swimming and water safety lessons during, and outside of, the school day.
Active Partnerships, StreetGames, ukactive, and the Youth Sport Trust will work together to ensure the objectives of the programme are exceeded through collaboration and co-design.
The shared goal of creating more positive experiences of physical activity for school and community users while focusing on those who need the most support will ensure we are narrowing inequalities which exist within our communities.
In the recent Active Lives Children and Young People survey (covering 2021/22 academic year) from Sport England, it was revealed that children and young people’s activity levels overall have recovered to pre-pandemic levels, with 47% of children meeting the Chief Medical Officers’ guidelines of taking part in an average of 60 minutes or more of sport and physical activity a day.
There are rises in both the numbers getting active outside school hours and during school hours, which highlights how hard schools worked to get sport and activity back in a safe and positive way after COVID-19.
However, those from low affluence families are still less likely to be active than those from high affluence (42% compared to 52%) and children and young people going to school in the most deprived places in the country have not seen activity recover to pre-pandemic levels.
There are signs that certain interventions can make a big difference, such as schemes to promote physical activity locally, working with a range of partners.
The Opening School Facilities funding will adopt these learnings to deliver localised activity across England where it is needed the most.
This funding forms part of a wider announcement from the Government into funding for schools. Read more here.
More People More Active More Often