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School sports halls, and other facilities, are often under-used during evenings, weekends and school holidays
School sports halls, and other facilities, are often under-used during evenings, weekends and school holidays

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Safe and familiar school facilities can play major role in getting young people more active

Strategic Advisor for Children and Young People, Gary Palmer, looks at how opening up school facilities can play a major role in getting London's young people active post-pandemic and the data behind London Sport's funding priorities.

This weekend I watched my son playing football for his Sunday league team on a 3G football pitch at a local secondary school. It wasn’t Wembley Stadium, nor was it the newest artificial surface. 

But it was better than the local park and it is was a safe, secure place where all young people can play and be active - this is extremely important.

So what’s so special about that? Thousands of young people play many different sports across the capital every weekend in many venues now that the lockdown has ended.

But how many of those take place on London school sites? Perhaps not as many of you might think.

It is estimated that 39% of sports facilities are behind school gates but many of those facilities stay unused at weekends and during school holidays - that's a lot of time sitting idle and unused.

In a recent survey conducted for Sport England 91% of schools surveyed said that they would be prepared to open their facilities for community use when restrictions were Covid-19 lifted.

Only 52% have actually done so at any point over the last year when restrictions allowed.

So what can be done to change this?

London Sport is inviting London secondary schools to apply for grants of up to £10,000 to help open or re-open their school facilities outside of school hours for local young people.

As with all London Sport projects, we want these grants to have as big an impact as possible so have been working hard over recent months to decide where to focus our efforts.

While the fund will be open to all schools, we are particularly looking for state-funded secondary schools, who have no current (or only limited) community access onsite to their sports facilities.

We will support schools who have a high percentage of pupils eligible for free school meals, have high percentage of Year 6 overweight or obese and/or have high levels of deprivation.

Using public data available on all three factors, we’ve ranked every London borough and combined the three tables to identify eight areas from which we’ll particularly welcome applications.

They are:

  • Tower Hamlets
  • Hackney
  • Newham
  • Barking and Dagenham
  • Islington
  • Southwark
  • Haringey
  • Enfield

We will consider applications from schools (secondary as a priority but also primary and other educational settings) based in all London boroughs but particularly welcome applications from these boroughs.

The application window opens on Tuesday 1 June and closes on Sunday 4 July. For the more information on how to apply click here.

After the events of the last year, the importance of physical, mental and emotional wellbeing for young people has rarely been more prominent. 

Being physically active can play a significant role; it helps prevent or manage medical conditions, reduce anxiety or stress, improve confidence or self-esteem, and bring people from diverse backgrounds together.

One of the biggest barriers to being physically active is having a place where people feel comfortable being active and a variety of physical activities that appeal to a broad range of young people.

This is where London schools must play a vital role.

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Andrew Lawton

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London Sport aims to make London the most physically active city in the world.

About London Sport

London Sport aims to make London the most physically active city in the world. Supported by the Mayor of London and Sport England, our target is to get Londoners more physically active.

For more information on London Sport, visit www.londonsport.org

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