Vulnerable young people will be given opportunities to take part in sport and physical activity over the summer holidays by utilising school sports facilities that would usually be behind locked doors.
The Open Doors programme will be run in partnership between industry body, ukactive, and sportswear giant Nike, which has agreed to support the scheme over the next three years.
Running across four major cities – London, Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester – the Open Doors programme forms part of ukactive’s Schools As Community Hubs policy.
In total, 10 schools will open their facilities during July 2021, with ukactive and Nike aiming to scale the programme to more than 100 schools across England by Summer 2023.
The expansion means school sites will remain open during the holidays to support young people by tackling inactivity, community disengagement and holiday hunger.
The Schools As Community Hubs policy model focuses on unlocking school playing fields, halls and courts, which make up around 39 per cent of community sport facilities in England – but are usually closed or inaccessible during school holidays.
Research by ukactive’s Research Institute shows that children and young people suffer a loss in cardiorespiratory fitness levels over the summer holidays of up to 74 per cent – with those from lower socio-economic groups suffering a drop in fitness around 18 times faster than their more affluent peers.
This year’s Open Doors programme comes at a crucial time, with COVID-19 widening the inequalities gap experienced by many children and young people, from increased isolation and disconnection with local communities, to the growing physical and mental health challenges that lockdown has exacerbated.
The Open Doors initiative is being championed by Nike athlete and Iron Man, John McAvoy, and ukactive intends for the programme to help change existing policies for out-of-school provision and usage.
McAvoy said: “The Open Doors programme shows exactly what can happen when we unlock sport and physical activities for all young people, transforming their outlook for the holidays.
“I’ve seen the way these young people respond to the coaches and instructors they meet, and the way that sport and physical activity can totally change their social lives, their confidence and their belief in achieving something positive.
“This summer marks the start of a golden opportunity to grow Open Doors, using the Schools as Community Hubs model to engage young people across the whole of the UK by 2023.”
Source: Sports Parks and Leisure