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  • Writer's pictureThe Guardian

Youth Sport Trust: children’s activity levels in England a national concern

New figures showing that 53% of children and young people in England still do not meet the chief medical officer’s guidelines for daily activity are a “national concern”, the Youth Sport Trust has warned.

Almost four million children are not physically active for the recommended 60-plus minutes a day on average, according to a Sport England survey of 100,000 children and young people during the 2022-23 academic year.

The figures also show that 2.2m aged between five and 16 – 30% in total – do not even get 30 minutes of activity. Sport England defines activity as anything from walking to more vigorous forms of exercise.

The Youth Sport Trust chief executive, Ali Oliver, urged the government to do more to boost activity, especially given the link between movement and exercise and mental health.

“When too many children are struggling with their wellbeing, we believe this is a matter of national concern, and strategies that focus on physical activity should be at the heart of approaches to tackle this,” she added.

“We have to start in schools. Sadly, a further 4,000 hours of PE have been lost from the curriculum in state-funded secondary schools in the last academic year, and access to co-curricular enrichment programmes and after-school sport is declining.”

Meanwhile, Sarah Kaye, the CEO of the charity Sported, called on the government to better help grassroots clubs. “There are still significant gaps in providing sport to young people in an accessible and affordable way, especially to women and girls and those from minoritised communities,” she said.

“Investment from Sport England makes a difference. However other parts of government are still failing to harness the power that grassroots clubs have to not only create a more active nation but also deliver social impacts that positively shape lives and our communities.”

The survey also found that just 71% of children in school can swim 25 metres by the time they leave primary school – a figure down by 6.3% compared to before the pandemic.

And while there were some signs of optimism – with gym and fitness classes significantly up and 68,000 (1.5%) more girls playing football since the Lionesses won Euro 2022 – the survey found overall activity levels among children remained unchanged compared to 2021-22.


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