Since our successful application for Opening Schools Facilities Funding, we at Active Essex have so far supported 47 schools across Essex, to help get extracurricular opportunities for sport and physical activity back up and running.
The grant, provided by the Department for Education, is part of a £10.1m nationwide scheme in collaboration with Sport England to help children and young people to be more physically active at evenings and weekends. We have so far invested £300,000 to help restart extracurricular activities and keep facilities open for after school and weekend clubs, investing in equipment, coaching time, support staff and tools to make keeping facilities open for after school clubs and community use an attractive option for schools.
The funding scheme comes at a time when we are keen to address the impact of COVID-19 on our children’s physical and mental wellbeing. We believe this funding will be key in helping to provide safe, secure and enjoyable opportunities to encourage our kids to get active and social after a difficult 18 months.
The support has been a welcomed relief for many in Greater Essex so far. One teacher said: “Getting the funding from Active Essex has been a game changer for us in terms of making sure we could bring the children back safely to our inclusive football club. Many of the children who attend our club are at higher risk and the only way we could get them back safely was to provide more equipment and space.” They added: “The funding has allowed us to do both and has ensured that not only have some of the regular players returned but that we have also been able to welcome new young people to the club.”
Although our main focus with Opening Schools Facilities Funding is to support children and young people with their physical and mental wellbeing, it has also been beneficial to the staff, coaches and care-givers, too. One coach said: “Running these sessions really gives me a purpose and through lockdown it was something I was aiming for. The funding is brilliant because it has allowed me to run some safe drills but also keep the sessions enjoyable, which is what our afterschool club is all about. I am so pleased to see young people back again enjoying sport and hope that the funding will help us to keep these sessions going all the way through the summer holidays and next term.”
Getting back to the activities we love and being able to attend the clubs, classes and sessions we enjoy has been an exciting prospect for many of us. One young football player in Essex said: “I couldn’t wait to get back to football again – I have missed it so much. The football has been really good and even though we have to keep safe I am really enjoying the new sessions and can just kick a football around again with my mates. I have been looking forward to this so much during lockdown!”
Cllr Tony Ball, Cabinet Member for Education Excellence, Life Long Learning and Employability said: “After months of disruption and in many cases cancelation all together, this funding could not have come at a more important time to support recovery and give our children and young people immediate opportunities to get back to activities they love doing, socialising with friends, having fun and moving more.”
Lee Monk, Active Essex Children and Young Person Lead, said: “The Opening Schools Facility Funding has enabled us to act quickly to support schools get extracurricular clubs up and running as soon as possible. Afterschool clubs are a vital resource for many children and young people and are sometimes the only opportunity outside of P.E lessons for many to be active. We have also worked with schools who have been hesitant to reopen to the community to help them make safe and sustainable plans for community bookings into the evenings and weekends.”