Originally published Jan. 27, 2020 by Children & Young People Now.

By Neil Puffett

The government has announced funding of £2.4m for better sports activities and teaching as part of part of a national drive to encourage children to take part in 60 minutes of physical activity every day.

A total of £1.6m of the funding will go to schools in 19 areas across England to collaborate with sports organisations to increase opportunities for children to use sports facilities after lessons have finished.

The partnerships will be established by Active Partnership Network, supported by Sport England. The Department for Education (DfE) said that, as part of the plans, schools will be able to generate additional sustainable income from “leasing their premises to external organisations at affordable rates”.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “Getting children active from a young age helps them build confidence and learn skills they will use in later life. Many schools already open up their facilities so their communities can benefit and I want to encourage even more to do so.

“By backing schools with this extra money we can make more fun activities available all year round – everything from football to dodgeball – to help children find a sport that they will enjoy and which will keep them healthy.”

The DfE said the new investment builds on plans set out in the Sport and Activity Action Plan, published last year, to provide safe and familiar environments for children to take part in activities that encourage good physical health and skills for the future, like teamwork and discipline.

Lee Mason, chief executive of Active Partnerships said the funding provides an opportunity to better understand how secondary schools can be supported to open up their facilities during evenings, weekends and holiday periods for the benefit of 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,” he said.

“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.”

Mike Diaper, Sport England’s director of children and young people, said a significant amount of community sports facilities are found in schools.

“This new funding will help support schools to open up their facilities beyond the school day so they can be used for as long as possible by young people and the wider community and link schools up with great local activities.

“The 19 Active Partnerships around the country will be working with local schools to make it easier, overcome some of the obstacles and share best practice – in what will be a win-win for pupils, community members and local sports clubs,” he added.

In addition to the £1.6m fund to make school sports facilities more accessible out of hours, 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.

And there will be a £300,000 funding package to encourage volunteering opportunities, including a grant worth £20,000 for Birmingham to increase the number of youth volunteers in the community, ahead of the Commonwealth Games, which will be held in the city in 2022.

Last year a study found that extra-curricular activities, particularly music and sport, are three times more likely to be accessed by children from high-income households than their less well-off peers.

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