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Industry reacts to childhood inactivity survey – figures branded 'shocking' and 'a national disgrace'

By Tom Walker    06 Dec 2018
(Clockwise from top left) – Tanni Grey-Thompson, Emma Boggis, Ali Oliver, Dr Alison Tedstone and Mims Davies are among industry leaders to react to the findings

The figures revealed in today's Active Lives Children and Young People research have been described an "urgent wake-up call" and a "national disgrace".

Published today, Sport England’s Active Lives Children and Young People Survey showed that less than one in five of children and young people (17.5 per cent) are meeting the Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines of more than 60 minutes of activity a day.

Following the publication of the report, a number of industry leaders have responded with shock – and have called for "immediate, direct action" to reverse the trend.

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, chair, ukactive:

“These figures are a national disgrace and show the long-term failure of successive governments to prioritise the health of the most vulnerable people in society – our children.

"We now have the opportunity to work alongside Sport England to make sure that government prioritises this issue and provides the critical investment and resource to transform Generation Inactive into Generation Active as a matter of urgency.

“These figures show that 83% of children are failing to meet the recommended guidelines for physical activity and less affluent families are suffering most. We want to see Government support every community to make better use of our parks, open spaces, school facilities and leisure centres, so that children from all backgrounds have equal opportunities to live happy, active and social lives every day of the year.”

Ali Oliver, CEO, Youth Sport Trust:“This research should serve as an urgent wake-up call for anyone who cares about young people’s wellbeing.

"It confirms what we have known for some time and cuts to the heart of YST’s mission - too many young people are missing out on the life-changing benefits of sport and play, particularly girls and those from less affluent backgrounds.

“The absence of a gap between activity levels of children with and without disabilities is an encouraging sign of what can be achieved. But when fewer than one in five young people are meeting the recommended 60 minutes every day, it is clear that much more needs to be done.

“Beyond the worrying news about participation, the association this research reveals between physical activity and young people’s mental wellbeing, resilience and personal development must not be lost. Young people who are active are more likely to feel happy.

“Through a combination of the digital age, changing lifestyles and a worrying decline in Physical Education the odds are stacked against young people enjoying the benefits of an active lifestyle. Our own research has shown that 38% of English secondary schools cut the amount of PE on the timetable in the five years after 2012.

“We need a radical shift in our approach to Physical Education and youth sport and a long-term, joined-up and ambitious approach to unlocking the benefits of sport and play for all young people. This must be the aim of the School Sport and Activity Action Plan due to be published by government next year.

“The annual publication of this research by Sport England is an important step forward in gaining a true picture of young people’s engagement in sport and physical activity. We look forward to exploring this data in more detail and would urge government, local authorities and schools to act on the challenges highlighted in this report.”

Mims Davies, sports minister: “While it is encouraging that 3 million children do at least an average of 60 minutes of sport or physical activity every day, the number of young people who are not doing enough is simply unacceptable. We know that an active child is a happier child and efforts must be stepped up to encourage young people to live healthy, active lives and I know that Sport England are committed to making progress in this area.

"Our School Sport and Activity Action Plan will also ensure that all children have access to quality PE, sport sessions and clubs. Together with the sport sector, parents and our local communities, we must build a comprehensive and cross-Government offer to create a truly active nation."

Dr Alison Tedstone, Head Physical Activity, Public Health England:

“Physical activity is crucial for good physical and mental health of children and young people - this work is a timely reminder for everyone to do more to help them be more active.”

"Understanding the barriers, motivations and attitude of young people towards sport and physical activity is a key part of providing solutions that meet their needs. Sport England will be releasing a second report due in March 2019, highlighting children’s attitudes to sport and physical activity."

Emma Boggis, CEO, Sports and Recreation Alliance:“As a nation we must declare that enough is enough.

“Today’s results confirm that our children and young people are not active enough to be happy and healthy and collectively we are in danger of breeding a generation of children that will die earlier than their parents.

“The fact so many children and young people don’t meet guidelines set by the Chief Medical Officer on daily activity is deeply concerning as most children are missing out on the impact this activity can have on their happiness.

“The research we undertook in our own Why are we failing our children report has shown that this crisis has been building for over forty years. It must stop now.

“This is why we have started a campaign which calls for every child to have the fundamental #RightToBeActive. We want to work with government to solve this crisis.

“It is a problem which bears no political colours and crosses the Westminster divide. We want to see cross-party action which mirrors the collaborative working we are undertaking with Sport England and sector partners to tackle this ticking timebomb head on.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for the Secretary of State and the new Minister for Sport to engage with us and the sector to push for systematic change to improve the lives of millions of our children.

“The issues stretch across many government departments and we are calling for better, joined-up working to reverse the frightening trends we are seeing.

“The School Sport and Activity Action Plan that the government has announced it will publish in the Spring is a good opportunity to start that work. We also want to see a much longer-term approach which reflects the scale of the challenge ahead and the importance of improving the levels of physical activity outside of school settings.

“A healthier, happier generation of children will grow into healthier, happier adults and we know that inactivity is one of the biggest threats to this.

“We also know that there is incredible work being carried out across the country, by our members and their clubs, by schools and in communities.

“It is encouraging to see the number of children engaged in team sports and the important role that this continues to play in developing the skills and increasing the activity levels of our younger generations.

“We must scale up localised success and showcase those passionate individuals who are making a positive impact despite often being under-resourced and poorly funded.

“Acknowledging the issue is the start to the solution, but it is crucial that government works with the sector, schools, communities and families to get more of our youngsters active over the coming months and years.

“As a nation, we should refuse to settle for anything less.”

Tanni Grey-Thompson  ukactive  Ali Oliver  Youth Sport Trust  Mims Davies 
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