Less than half of children (47%) in England meet the Chief Medical Officers’ guidelines of taking part in an average of 60 minutes or more of sport and physical activity a day.
Figures from Sport England’s latest Active Lives Children and Young People Survey Report, published today (7 December), also show that there remain significant inequalities in activity levels.
Black (40%) and Asian (40%) children and young people, and those from the least affluent families (44%), are still less likely to play sports or be physically active than the average across all ethnicities and affluence groups.
Girls (44%) are also less likely to be active than boys (51%).
According to Sport England there are, however, some “positive stories” in the data.
These include figures which showing how there are now one million (11.5%) more children and young people walking, cycling or scootering to get places than there were five years ago (academic year 2017-18) – the first year that the Active Lives Children and Young People was published.
The number of girls playing football has also increased by 68,000 (1.5%) in just one year – since the England Women’s team, the Lionesses, won Euro 2022.
According to Sport England CEO, Tim Hollingsworth, the figures reveal significant challenges, but also highlight the “importance of physical literacy”.
“It won’t surprise anyone reading this that if we are to hit the government’s target of getting over one million more children active by 2030 (the target in their new Get Active strategy), then there is real work to be done.
“The survey shows that currently, less than half of children (47.0%) achieve the Chief Medical Officers’ guidelines when it comes to exercise, while nearly a third (30.2%) are doing fewer than 30 minutes of activity a day.
“Even starker is that our research shows there are significant inequalities depending on a child’s ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status and age.
“Every child and young person has the right to be active and benefit from being active in a safe, positive and trusted environment.
“And what is clear is that teachers, schools and early-years settings are absolutely crucial in helping make this happen.
“We know and hear lots about the importance of numeracy and literacy for young people’s development, yet the term ‘physical literacy’ is all too often absent.
“Earlier this year we published the first ever Physical Literacy Consensus Statement for England, which was the culmination of 18 months of work.
“It was work that saw colleagues hear from world-renowned experts in the field at global conferences and work with around 60 researchers and stakeholders at home to land on a definition that offers a broad overview of physical literacy, why it matters and how it can be developed and supported.
“It ultimately outlines how our connection and commitment to getting physically active can be influenced by various factors such as our thoughts, feelings, engagement and experiences.
“Therefore, how a child therefore moves, connects, thinks and feels when being physically active, plays a crucial role in shaping their physical literacy.
“To get more children active, all school staff – from teachers to PE assistants and coaches – must realise it will take more than simply developing their physical movement skills or introducing them at an early age to rules-based, technical sports.
“Only a united effort behind physical literacy will help get those one million children active and help to build a healthier, happier and more resilient generation of children that love to move.”