21/03/19 – Sport England publishes Active Lives – the next stage

APPG Member Joel Cohen writes: Today Sport England is publishing the next stage of our first Active Lives Children and Young People Survey. These official statistics provide the richest evidence yet on the factors that positively influence children and young people’s activity levels. The study focusses on physical literacy, the five key elements of taking part – enjoyment, confidence, competence, understanding and knowledge. Taken together, our research describes how these impact children’s activity levels, mental wellbeing, resilience and levels of social trust.

The release comes at a crucial time, given the imminent release of the Government’s School Sport Action plan, its green paper on improving the nation’s health, and the plans to use physical activity to integrate communities and reduce childhood obesity. In the words of Sport England CEO, Tim Hollingsworth, “We hope these results will be considered and acted on by all who deliver activity and sport.”

Active Lives provides comprehensive insight into how children in England are taking part in sport and physical activity both in and out of school drawing on the views of 130,000 children and young people.

I have attached our policy briefing, highlighting what we’ve learned from the findings. Our full report on the Active Lives Children and Young People Survey (with links to the published data) can be found at: http://www.sportengland.org/cypattitudes

The key findings, released today, are:

  1. Physically literate children do twice as much activity. The more of the five elements of physical literacy children have, the more active they are.
  2. Enjoyment is the biggest driver of activity levels. Despite the majority of children (68%) understanding that sport and activity is good for them, understanding had the least impact on activity levels.
  3. Children who have all five elements of physically literacy report higher levels of happiness, are more trusting of other children, and report higher levels of resilience.
  4. Physical literacy decreases with age. As children grow older, they report lower levels of enjoyment, confidence, competence, and understanding. Previous research from Sport England shows that activity levels drop when children reach their teenage years.
  5. The results also reveal important inequalities among certain groups of children which must be tackled:
    1. Girls are less likely to say they enjoy or feel confident about doing sport and physical activity (58% of boys enjoy it, compared to 43% of girls while 47% of boys feel confident, compared to 31% of girls.) In children ages 5-7, boys are more likely to love playing sport, while girls are more likely to love being active.
    2. Children from the least affluent families are less likely to enjoy activity than those from the most affluent families, and previous research shows they are also far less likely to be active.
    3. Black children are more physically literate than other ethnic groups – driven by boys, but are less active than the population as a whole.

 What this means for health outcomes

 Sport and activity can play an important role in improving England’s physical and mental wellbeing as recognised by the Government’s Sporting Future strategy and Sport England’s own Towards an Active Nation strategy. In order to experience these benefits, we encourage children and young people to meet the Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines doing 60 minutes of physical activity every day or across the week.

 This research shows that the highest levels of happiness and reduced stress or anxiety are seen where children and young people have both positive attitudes to physical literacy and are taking part in activity. However, there is stronger positive association between these attitudes and wellbeing outcomes than activity levels alone indicating the need for a change of approach.

Sport England would urge everyone working with children and young people to promote these outcomes taking into account these five elements of physical literacy.