Community Column: Do not underestimate the role school sport plays in fulfilling healthy, happy, childhoods

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24th June 2023

Chris Lowes, Head of Oxford United in the Community, discusses how foundation level sport in schools can inspire pupils to have positive aspirations for their futures

This month’s Community Column coincides with National School Sports Week, an opportunity to highlight the proven impact sports participation has on pupils’ mental and physical health.

The week-long celebration was first launched in 2008 by the Youth Sport Trust and champions sport and its power to bring people together in school environments.

Today, National School Sports Week engages almost one million children nationwide. And this year there is a particular focus on ensuring children have the opportunity to meet the Chief Medical Officer’s recommended levels of physical activity.

According to the latest Sport England statistics, less than half (47%) of children take part in an average of 60 minutes or more of sport or physical activity each day.

This is a concerning trend.

Not least because team-based sports – including football – play an important role in the next generation developing life skills and confidence which are later essential in everyday life. But also because of the mental and physical health benefits which act as a natural by-product of participation.

At Oxford United in the Community, our team of coaches and social impact workers bear witness to this every day through our engagement with schools, community venues and the football club itself.

So, what exactly can be done locally to ensure as many schoolchildren as possible can be encouraged to increase their levels of physical activity?

Firstly, local provision is essential. In the absence of youth engagement programmes which prioritise inclusivity, children are far less likely to feel inclined to engage.

Secondly, fun and enjoyment must be at the heart of all aspects of delivery. And finally, a call to action which encourages willing participants to take their engagement with sport to the next level – this could be by joining their local club, for example.

Our work in schools is delivered specifically to cover all three of these bases. Centrepiece of delivery is our engagement with schools across the county via our after-school clubs which cater for all abilities.

This is achieved through our existing partnerships with Haddenham Junior School, Marsh Baldon CofE, Enstone Primary School, Windmill Primary School plus Fringford and Long Wittenham Primary Schools.

Sessions suit all abilities and focus on the development of agility, balance and coordination while prioritising what we mentioned above – fun and enjoyment.

You can read our full June column in the Oxford Mail by clicking here.


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