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UK Active and Nike’s Open Doors in-school holiday programme aims to keep kids active and away from food poverty

By Frances Marcellin    20 Jul 2022
Open Doors is underway for 2022, having debuted with a pilot scheme in 2020 and expanded to four cities last year / UK Active
Open Doors is underway for 2022, operating across twelve schools in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool during the summer holidays
The scheme piloted in London and Birmingham in 2020 and there are plans to expand it further in 2023
Schools make up 39 per cent of community sports facilities in England but are usually closed for summer
As fitness levels drop during the summer holiday, running programmes on school sites can help keep children healthy and active
Open Doors will give hundreds of children and young people the opportunity to enjoy sport and physical activity this summer, as well as providing nutritious food
– Huw Edwards, CEO of UK Active
Credit: UK Active

UK Active and Nike have launched the 2022 Open Doors programme. The scheme provides children and young people with the opportunity to connect, be active, eat well and have fun at twelve selected schools across London, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool during the summer holidays. The Tottenham Hotspur Foundation, Rio Ferdinand Foundation, Tanzii TV, Aspire, and Bloomsbury Football are supporting the project as delivery partners.

The motivation behind Open Doors is to ensure that children remain active, healthy and engaged while they are not at school – UK Active’s research has shown that children’s cardiorespiratory levels drop significantly during the vacation.

The Open Doors scheme successfully debuted in 2020 (through collaboration with the Greater London Authority and West Midlands Combined Authority in Birmingham) and, despite the pandemic, it expanded to Manchester and Liverpool in 2021 running in ten city-based schools.

Schools make up around 39 per cent of community sports facilities in England, but they are usually closed and left unused during the six-week vacation. On average, children live within 2.4 miles from school, which include leisure and kitchen facilities that the community can benefit from if they are made accessible.

Sport England’s latest Active Lives Survey shows that children (as well as adults) are doing less activity than they were before the pandemic. With fitness levels dropping and 2.5m food insecure children in the country – more than 600,000 live in London – there is a strong case to open schools for the benefit of children and young people out of term time.

“Open Doors will give hundreds of children and young people the opportunity to enjoy sport and physical activity this summer, as well as providing nutritious food,” said Huw Edwards, CEO of UK Active. “Supporting the physical and mental health of our youngest citizens has to be central to the government’s ambitions for levelling up and reducing health inequalities.

“We must not accept holiday hunger and physical inactivity as the reality for children growing up in the UK today, so we are calling on central and local government to help realise the potential of the Open Doors model to support millions more children.”

Back in June, Nike and UK Active launched the Open Doors Blueprint – part of UK Active’s Schools As Community Hubs policy – which is a guide for schools and stakeholders, based on lessons learned and outcomes from the previous two years, that will help to scale Open Doors into other cities and areas across the UK. UK Active is aiming to expand the programme to one hundred schools in 2023.

Open Doors is backed by a range of sports clubs and charities, as well as individuals such as UK Active’s chair Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, rugby captain Lawrence Dallaglio and Nike athlete John McAvoy. McAvoy has become an inspiring role model to young people, particularly since the release of his book Redemption in 2016. While serving a double life sentence in prison for armed robbery, he broke three world records and eight British records for rowing while in solitary confinement and is now a Nike Athlete, and Ironman triathlete, committed to helping young people improve their lives.

“Tragically, we know many children and young people are facing a really tough summer holiday, without even basic access to food or a safe place to play and be active with others,” said Nike athlete John McAvoy.

“By unlocking school sport facilities through Open Doors, we can have such a positive impact on children and young people, bringing them happiness, confidence and friendship at what otherwise could be a very lonely time.

“We want to show every community the power of sport and physical activity to enrich the lives of every child and young person, no matter what their background.”

Key findings from 2021 showed that 35 per cent of the children on the programme were usually inactive – normally doing less than 30 minutes of daily physical activity; 90 per cent of children and young people made new friends; and 63 per cent said they were looking forward to returning to school after the holidays.

The Open Doors programme helps to support children and young people in a school setting during the summer holidays / UK Active
Nike Athlete John McAvoy actively champions the Open Doors programme / UK Active
UK Active  Nike  Tottenham Hotspur Foundation  Rio Ferdinand Foundation  Tanzii TV  Aspire  Bloomsbury Football  Huw Edwards 
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