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£10m fund will open school sports facilities after hours

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The government has pledged to invest more than £10m to open school sports and swimming facilities in England to the public in the evenings, at weekends and during holidays.

The funding, to be distributed through Sport England, has been designed to ensure children and young people have access to activity, even in areas with limited public facilities.

The announcement comes following a Daily Telegraph campaign called "Keep Kids Active", which called for the policy to be introduced across the UK.

"This targeted investment in selected schools will build on existing funding to help schools open their facilities outside school hours, and encourage pupils to be more physically active," said the UK government's education secretary, Gavin Williamson.

The investment is part of the government's £1bn School Rebuilding Programme, which will result in the construction of 50 new energy-efficient school buildings across the country.

Liz Terry, editor of HCM said: "Hats off to the Daily Telegraph for being one of the main catalysts that made this happen and for running such a powerful campaign in support of children and young people.

"Educating children in self-care and raising them up to value exercise as a regular part of their lives is fundamental to the health and wellbeing of future generations and to beating lifestyle diseases, which currently make up around 85 per cent of all illness.

"Medics are reporting that rates of childhood asthma are increasing rapidly, due to the fact that children lack cardiovascular exercise in the years where the very structure of their lungs is being formed.

"The trachea, bronchi, bronchioles and alveoli all have 'capacity' in adulthood which is set in childhood, while tissues are still flexible.

"This capacity is created by outward pressure on the airways, due to exertion and a lack of this outward pressure can lead to the permanent formation of narrow airways.

"Once these are set, it is almost impossible to increase capacity, leading to a lifetime of physical restriction.

"This means that every day a child is not able to move and to exert themselves physically, they are forming lungs which are more likely to lead to illness and reduced physical capacity.

"We wholeheartedly welcome this move – this investment could not be more timely or more critical and we hope it will lead to permanent funding for childhood health and wellbeing.

"We also hope that the government's £1bn School Rebuilding Programme will 'build-in' powerful wellbeing interventions, so schools have the facilities and capacity to be able to teach children self-care from an early age and encourage them to engage with their health in terms of diet and lifestyle."

Welcoming the announcement, ukactive's Jack Shakespeare – director of children – said: “We know 39 per cent of community sports facilities are locked behind school gates over the holidays, while children are losing up to 74 per cent of their cardiorespiratory fitness over the summer holiday period.

“Opening up school facilities can re-shape holiday experiences for those children and young people that really need it.

“The scale of the problem we face, exacerbated by the pandemic, requires an ambition which is matched in scale – unlocking access to thousands of school facilities."

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The government has pledged to invest more than £10m to open school sports and swimming facilities in England to the public in the evenings and at weekends.
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