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Government funding to help schools keep their sports facilities open all year round

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The UK government is looking to create more physical activity opportunities for children by helping schools open up their facilities outside regular hours – and during school holidays.

The Active Partnership Network, supported by Sport England and funded by a £1.6m government grant, has been tasked with setting up partnerships between schools and local sports providers, encouraging them to open up their facilities for sporting competitions, after school clubs and holiday activities.

Schools will also be able to generate additional sustainable income from leasing their premises to external organisations at "affordable rates".

"By opening up school sports halls and playing fields to sports clubs and the wider community, we will increase opportunities, particularly for those with the least access and from the most deprived areas and deliver on our manifesto commitment," said sports minister Nigel Adams.

The scheme to open up facilities outside school hours is part of a total investment of £2.4m being made in creating additional sports activities and improve physical activity teaching at schools.

In addition to the funding to support extended hours for school sports facilities, nine teaching schools known for their expertise in sport in different parts of the country will share a £500,000 grant to trial new ways to engage the least active pupils and help to develop the skills and confidence of PE teachers.

The nine teaching schools will test new ways to provide high-quality PE lessons that meet Ofsted’s new inspection framework, which requires schools to create opportunities for children to be physically active across the day.

Lee Mason, CEO, Active Partnerships, added: "This funding is a great opportunity to better understand how we can support all types of secondary schools to open up their facilities during evenings, weekends and holiday periods for the benefit of their school children and local communities.

"Schools are trusted sites within local communities and are the ideal place for people of all ages to be more active.

"By the end of this project, we will know more about the barriers schools face when trying to open their facilities for community use and how to support schools to overcome these challenges.

"We will also identify and celebrate schools who are placing their facilities at the heart of their community and the impact that this is having on both school and community life."

Physical activity body ukactive has long championed the opening up schools outside terms time – and has identified it as one of its core policies.

Jack Shakespeare, ukactive director of children, young people, families and research, said: “We welcome the progress demonstrated by this School Sport and Activity Action Plan commitment, which ukactive has championed as a core policy call since the publication of our Generation Inactive report three years ago.

“We know that 39 per cent of community sports facilities are locked behind school gates over the holidays, while children are losing up to 80 per cent of their cardiorespiratory fitness over the summer. Opening up school gates can re-shape school holiday experiences for those children and young people that really need it.

“It is vital that progress on this initiative from Government does not attempt to reinvent the wheel, but instead takes on the lessons learnt from our members and partners who are already activating school facilities and engaging their local communities year-round.

“We have proven the Schools-as-Community Hubs model through our ground-breaking research and activations with children and young people, including our collaboration with partners through the Sainsbury’s Active Kids Holiday Clubs – unlocking 70 schools and delivering more than 100,000 days of activity last summer.

“We look forward to working with Sport England and the Active Partnership Network to ensure that this Government drive is supported fully by our members, using the full breadth of the sector’s expertise in engaging children, young people and their families.

“The scale of the problem we face requires a matched ambition for scale – unlocking access to thousands of school facilities by the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.”

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The UK government is looking to create more physical activity opportunities for children by helping schools open up their facilities outside regular hours – and during school holidays.
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