Active Essex has been awarded a share of up to £57m worth of Opening School Facilities investment from the Department for Education, to support schools to open their sporting facilities for local community and school users outside of the normal school day.
Schools play a vital role in encouraging children and young people to be more active. This funding will enable local schools to open up their facilities for children, young people and the wider community to access more opportunities to be physically active, before school, after school, during weekends, evenings and school holidays.
Active Essex has been working with local stakeholders to identify those communities and people that would most benefit from increased access to facilities to help them be more physically active.
Schools can use this funding to purchase equipment to deliver new or additional clubs, to train employees to obtain qualifications to deliver new or additional activities and to pay for activity deliverers to run the clubs. They can also use funding to open their school swimming pools for pupils, focusing on providing valuable swimming and water safety lessons during and outside of the school day.
As well as supporting schools to provide more out of school opportunities for their school children and community users, priority will be given to projects encouraging women and girls to be more active, those that help disadvantaged communities and culturally diverse communities and for those supporting special educational needs, disabilities or long term health conditions.
The Active Partnerships National Team were awarded the funding in collaboration with partners streetgames, ukactive and the Youth Sport Trust. The Consortia will work together, supporting the local partnerships, to ensure the objectives of the programme are exceeded through collaboration and co-design. The shared goal of creating more positive experiences of physical activity for school and community users whilst focusing on those who need the most support will ensure we are narrowing inequalities which exist in our communities.
Andy Taylor, Chief Executive for Active Partnerships National Team said: “We are delighted that schools across England will receive a share of this new three year investment to help them open up their sporting facilities outside of the normal school day. Our network of 43 Active Partnerships will support schools to develop and deliver their plans, working together to identify those local communities facing the greatest inequalities and help them give them access to more varied opportunities to be physically active. We aim to engage with 1350 schools throughout the funding programme.
“As well as using the funding in this way to achieve the biggest impact possible, it is imperative that the investment creates sustainable physical activity programmes to continue to support communities to move more for their health and wellbeing for many years to come. We will be helping schools to create the right environment where those projects can continue, giving more people the chance to be and remain active.”
In the recent Active Lives Children and Young People survey (covering 2021/22 academic year) from Sport England, it was revealed that children and young people’s activity levels overall have recovered to pre-pandemic levels, with 47% of children meeting the Chief Medical Officers’ guidelines of taking part in an average of 60 minutes or more of sport and physical activity a day. There are rises in both the numbers getting active outside school hours and during school hours which highlights how hard schools worked to get sport and activity back in a safe and positive way after Covid-19.
However, those from low affluence families are still less likely to be active than those from high affluence (42% compared to 52%) and children and young people going to school in the most deprived places in the country have not seen activity recover to pre-pandemic levels. There are signs that certain interventions can make a big difference, such as schemes to promote physical activity locally, working with a range of partners. The Opening School Facilities funding will adopt these learnings to deliver localised activity across England where it is needed the most.