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Build Back Stronger to Create a Physical Activity Habit for Life, Advises Sport London

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Specialist Advisor for Children and Young People, Gary Palmer, looks at the work being done to reduce the slide in children’s activity levels and their plans for the next 12 months to reverse this concerning trend created by the pandemic.

The recent announcement from Sport England that children and young people in London are less active than they were in 2019 is no surprise given that we are in the midst of a worldwide pandemic.

Last week’s Active Lives for Children and Young People Report for 2020 showed that 41.9% of young Londoners are still active on average for 60 minutes every day each week.

That such a figure hasn’t dropped further is a testament to the resourcefulness of parents, teachers, coaches, organisations who deliver activities, and the children and young people themselves.

Those that have managed to stay active have often done so in a different way, adapting their habits to include new forms of exercise, often with their families at home, in local parks or online with friends.

London Sport remains committed to creating transformational change to enable every young Londoner to achieve 60 active minutes every day. They will focus on young people who are likely to be less active and enable more young people to have a positive experience of sport and physical activity.

London Sport has already started putting measures in place to achieve this. Since September 2020, they have:

  • Successfully unlocked 16 schools to enable the community to access their sports facilities
  • Given young people a voice to shape future thinking and projects at the Active London Conference
  • Created robust evidence on broadening access to school facilities that will enable replication at scale
  • Co-produced and co-designed 11 projects with youth groups that begin to tackle inequalities in low social-economic communities
  • Created a new partnership with the Alliance of Sport in Criminal Justice to support young people at risk of offending across three London boroughs
  • Provided investment into over 100 new projects which focus on activities for less active teenagers
  • Commenced testing three innovative schools programmes in 12 schools that will enable replication at scale if they prove to be successful

And this is just the start; over the next 12 months they also plan to: 

  • Work with partner organisations, stakeholders, communities, and young people to co-create simpler and better local systems in parts of London where young people are less likely to be active
  • Create access to more places where young Londoners can be active and have fun without fear for their safety or fear of being judged. That may be unlocking existing school sports facilities, developing less traditional spaces for physical activity, or developing inclusive safe spaces to meet specific challenges
  • Give more young Londoners the opportunity to be more active, irrespective of their background, gender, race or disability. They want to broaden the range of activities available in schools, signposting schools towards activities that may appeal to those likely to be less active
  • Provide more funding to organisations who work with young Londoners of all ages in parts of London where inequalities are greatest, funding positive activities for young people more likely to be less active

London Sport says: ‘Now is the time for us to stand up and to work together as a sector, with policymakers, funders, and community leaders, to ensure physical activity and sport are among the highest priorities for our children when it is safe to return to play.

‘We must build back stronger and provide young Londoners with the opportunities that they deserve with local solutions to local problems. Our next steps must ensure every child in London can build a physical activity habit for life.’

For more information on their work with children and young people, click here.

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