Sport and play has key role in building next generation of empathetic leaders

Empathy Week will take place between 24-28 February 2020 and is a free resource and includes films, lesson plans, a teacher’s guide and student worksheets.

100,000 students across the UK are projected to take part in ‘Empathy Week’ - a free secondary school resource that will empower a generation of conscious and action-focused youth to tackle society’s toughest challenges. 

The Youth Sport Trust is supporting the aims of the week and keen to raise awareness of the role that sport and play can have in developing empathy in young people.

The week includes five bespoke cinematic stories, deep discussion and creative thinking activities to explore how empathy can create a better world. It provides educators with experiential and collaborative programmes that can translate empathy into action.

It culminates in a nationwide social action project where students, in groups, tackle a social issue in their own communities. To help students start their own social action projects, they will receive an abundance of resources and guidance. Stand-out projects will be entered into the ‘Young Changemaker Awards’, which takes place in June, with the chance for schools to win prestigious awards as well as funding to expand or implement their project in the 2020/21 school year. 

Empathy Week is a free resource and includes films, lesson plans, a teacher’s guide and student worksheets. The curriculum is whole-school differentiated into KS3, KS4 & KS5 year groups and is easy for teachers to download and use right away. 

Ed Kirwan, founder of Empathy Week, said:

Having been a teacher myself, I saw the lack of leadership skills, confidence and perspective in my students. Empathy Week arose from the need to engage young people and empower them to take action in their own communities. 

Teaching empathy is important but it’s not enough, which is why we’ve designed a programme that allows schools to embed empathy into their community. It also allows students to gain and practice valuable skills such as leadership and resilience as they create their own social action projects.

Ali Oliver, Chief Executive of children’s charity the Youth Sport Trust, said:

We are proud and excited to support the launch of Empathy Week 2020, a new initiative and awareness week. As our charity enters its 25th year, we will be focussing on social wellbeing and in particular the role of play and sport in maintaining human connection - especially as we reflect on how much the world has changed for children growing up in it and the challenges they now face.

Through a new approach to evaluation across all our programmes we know that sport has a huge part to play in helping young people to be more empathetic. Our Impact report shows that 77% of young people said their empathy had improved through our programmes. This demonstrates the part that sport, physical activity and play can have in giving young people key skills for life - skills practiced, taught and reinforced through Empathy Week 2020.

This year, the theme is ‘Sporting Change,’ for which the content has been filmed and curated in partnership with ThoughtBox Education, Slum Soccer, The Youth Sport Trust and Tes. Slum Soccer is an Indian organisation that uses the power of football to change the lives of young people in slums and underprivileged communities, and is the focus of this year’s films.

Lord Jim Knight, Tes Ambassador for Empathy Week 2020, said:

I’m proud to be an Ambassador for Empathy Week 2020. Empathy is really important to me because we need to be thinking about other people, putting ourselves in their shoes, in order to engage as humans; and we need more humanity right now.

Registration for Empathy Week 2020 is now open to all secondary schools. For more information, visit: To get a taste of Empathy Week, watch the trailer here: To embed in any online articles, please use the above or:

Published on 13 January 2020