Children’s activity figures return to pre-pandemic levels, but challenges remain in recovery process

Active Lives Survey ()

Sport England has published its latest Active Lives Children and Young People Survey which reveals activity levels overall have recovered to pre-pandemic levels.

This latest data indicates 47% of children are meeting the Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines of an average of 60 minutes or more of sport and physical activity per day. These figures cover the 2021-22 academic year and see activity levels return to those from 2018-19, the last full year unaffected by the pandemic.

However, whilst there has been positive progress overall, it has been revealed that inequalities remain in the return to activity, with levels of primary-aged children and Black boys of primary ages not yet increasing to where they were pre-pandemic.

The report also shows a notable reduction in girls’ enjoyment and understanding of the benefits of activity with a 6.7% decrease in the number who say they enjoy taking part in exercise and sports, which increases to 7.5% among Black girls.

Responding to the figures, Sport and Recreation Alliance CEO, Lisa Wainwright MBE said:

“Whilst it is pleasing to see that overall activity levels have recovered to pre-pandemic levels, it is clear that these increases are not being experienced universally.

“It is concerning to see inequalities in participation continue and in particular that many girls, children from less affluent backgrounds and young people from diverse communities are not getting the positive benefits that activity can provide.

“The drop in enjoyment among girls also highlights the importance of our work in bringing the secretariat for the IWG on Women & Sport back to the UK, and the challenges that the group will be looking to make constructive progress on in the next four years.

“From a policy perspective, it is essential that funding for the PE and Sport Premium and School Games is confirmed as soon as possible so that schools and providers have certainty and can put in place the best possible provision to keep our children moving.

“It is equally urgent that additional targeted support is made available to help grassroots clubs, and community sport and leisure facilities cope with rising energy costs and wider cost of living pressures.

“Without access to high quality, affordable community sports facilities, many children will be unable to stay active and learn vital life skills including swimming. Which in turn is likely to exacerbate the current inequalities highlighted in this data.

“As laid out in our recent report Unlocking the potential, we and our sector partners believe sport, recreation and physical activity can make a significant contribution to the big policy challenges we face, including improving the health, wellbeing and educational attainment of children and young people.

“The proposed refresh of both the sport strategy Sporting Future and the School Sport and Activity Action Plan therefore provides a key opportunity for Government to renew its commitment to PE, school sport and physical activity based on a long-term joined up approach which puts the health and happiness of children and young people at the front and centre.”