Government urged to draw up plan for return of extracurricular school sport

The need for funding to help save leisure facilities and sports clubs has now also been stressed. “Playing sport and keeping active can help pave the road to recovery for a generation of children who have seen the most extraordinary disruption to their lives and education this year,” said Ali Oliver, the chief executive of the Youth Sports Trust. 

“It will now be important to ensure schools and community clubs have the clear guidance and targeted support they need to get youth sport back up and running as quickly and safely as possible. Community and extracurricular clubs are vital to young people fully experiencing and enjoying the life-enriching benefits of sport. This is why we are supporting calls from the sport sector for a recovery fund to protect grassroots sport, ensuring they can afford to re-open and play their part in young people’s recovery.” 

Baroness Grey-Thompson, the 11-times Paralympic champion and chair of ukactive, stressed the often unseen dangers of physical inactivity.

“Physical inactivity has in the past been described as ‘a silent killer’, creeping into our lives through a deadly cocktail of sedentary working habits, increased screen time, and an approach to modern living which squeezes our time more than ever,” she said. “Tragically, this definition rings truer following the pandemic, with a population weakened and vulnerable to such a highly contagious respiratory virus. It is clear that preventative health measures require much greater focus and investment.” Baroness Grey-Thompson also called for a “national effort to turn the tide of growing inactivity” and an urgent support package to rescue sports facilities and leisure centres amid the risk of mass closures.

A spokesperson for the department for education said that schools had continued to provide PE for those attending and “innovative remote teaching of PE and physical activity” for those at home. “Despite the challenges of the pandemic, we continue to work with sports providers and schools to deliver the School Sport and Activity Action Plan and across government we are ensuring children and young people are able to keep active and engaged in sport as far as possible,” said a spokesperson.