The Department for Education has today announced an investment of £10.1 million of funding to enable schools to open their sports facilities outside of school hours, to be distributed through Active Partnerships working with Sport England.
This investment comes at an important time given the impact COVID-19 has had on the activity levels of children and young people and given the significant decline in the number of schools offering after-school clubs for pupils as well as opening their facilities for community use. The funding will help schools deliver extracurricular activities and open their facilities outside of the school day during evenings, weekends and school holidays so that more children and young people have the opportunity to be active.
Active Partnerships Chief Executive Lee Mason commented that the new funding builds on work undertaken by 23 Active Partnerships over the last 15-months on the ‘Opening School Facilities’ project to address the long-standing desire to enhance the use of the valuable sporting facilities on school sites.
“As a test and learn project, we have built our knowledge and understanding of the drivers and barriers schools experience when opening their doors for community use. Inevitably COVID-19 has exacerbated the barriers and led to a significant decline in the number of schools offering after-school clubs for pupils as well as opening their facilities for community use, contributing to the decline in the activity levels of children and young people.
We, therefore, welcome this investment which comes at an important time as we look forward to schools reopening and finding ways to help young people and the wider community rebuild their sport and physical activity habits. The funding alongside the support from Active Partnerships will enhance extra-curricular provision, help those schools who previously made their facilities available for community use to re-open them and encourage more schools to do the same.
Our learning shows that increasingly schools do want to open their facilities as a way to strengthen their links to the local community. As a result, there is a timely and significant opportunity for schools to position themselves at the heart of local recovery plans from Covid by providing a safe, trusted and accessible space for their pupils and the wider community to be more active and help re-build their physical and mental wellbeing”
This funding will help Active Partnerships to support their local schools to understand the challenges in opening their facilities in a COVID secure manner and to make longer-term, sustainable changes to make the best use of their facilities, for example through building partnerships with local sports providers to provide the right opportunities for pupils and increasing the accessibility of their facilities. The funding could help schools to buy new equipment for sports and activities, as well as arranging additional cleaning and clear signage to help maintain social distancing.
Tim Hollingsworth, CEO, Sport England said:
“We are delighted with this additional support to help children and young people return to sport and activity when it is safe to do so.
“Schools play a vital role in keeping young people active and the pandemic has had a huge impact on their ability to open up their facilities. With this new investment, Active Partnerships will provide support and funding for their local schools so they can open after school and during the school holidays, providing more sports clubs and activity facilities to children and the wider community.”