The results of a major survey conducted by Sport Wales have emphasised the need for sporting activities to be made more appealing, suitable and welcoming for children and young people in Wales.
The 2022 School Sport Survey, which captured the views of more than 116,000 pupils aged between 7 and 16, has found that over a third of pupils aren’t doing any frequent organised activity outside of their PE lessons. The figure has risen from 28% to an alarming 36% since the survey was last undertaken in 2018.
"The fact that so many young people are inactive is really sad. It’s brewing up health problems for them in later life."
The survey results also show that long-term inequalities in sports participation remain. Boys are more active than girls, while children with disabilities, impairments or learning difficulties are still doing less.
Young people living in areas of Wales with the most deprivation take part in significantly less sport than those in more affluent areas, and youngsters who are Asian or from other ethnic groups are still less likely to take part in organised sport outside of the curriculum compared with pupils from mixed or multiple ethnic groups.
Whilst only 39% of pupils are active three or more times a week outside of the school curriculum, 93% of pupils overall want to do more sport. Thirty-seven per cent of survey respondees said that they would do more sport if there were more opportunities that suited them.
New Sport Wales Chair, Tanni Grey Thompson, is calling for everyone working within Welsh sport to act on this valuable insight.
Tanni said: “Society is changing – people have lots more demands on their time and the current cost of living crisis means that they have less money in their pockets too. These survey results emphasise the fact that a major shift is needed towards making sporting activities more inclusive and accessible so that everyone can find something that they enjoy.
“The fact that so many young people are inactive is really sad. It’s brewing up health problems for them in later life. We want everyone to form healthy habits and have fun experiences of playing sport and taking part in fitness activities from a young age so that they can go on to stay active throughout their lives.
“The evidence shows we need system-wide changes to what is offered, where it is offered, how it is offered and to whom. This is a challenge that collectively the sport sector, and beyond, can meet, but it will take collaboration, innovation and an acceptance of the scale of that shift. Anything less is not going to be good enough.
“While we can point to the Covid-19 pandemic as a factor in these latest results, what we are seeing here isn’t a one-off. Since Sport Wales first ran a School Sport Survey in 2011, the data has always shown that less than half of children in Wales are getting enough exercise.”