Virtual competitions to prevent children missing out on school sport

Pandemic has helped school sport sector move online, giving greater flexibility for young people to participate in exam seasons and during winter months.

A workforce of more than 450 School Games Organisers (SGOs), who are trusted and experienced leaders of school sport and physical activity programmes, were redeployed in March and have since helped parents, schools and communities move school sport online.

Taking to Twitter, TikTok, Instagram and Facebook, they have been setting active daily challenges with a focus on fun, enjoyment and sharing positive messages.

Sport England and children’s charity the Youth Sport Trust responded to a pressing need for action to help children stay active following the Government’s announcement of school closures, remote working and social distancing.

Many SGOs are now considering how virtual sports challenges and competitions created in the pandemic can continue during the winter months, something which would not have taken place had this crisis not occurred. SGO’s have also been working collaboratively across their county with active partnerships.

Holly Shirley is an SGO in Hampshire. She said:

I am one of 15 School Games Organisers in Hampshire, and we have been working closely together during lockdown creating the #HSGDailyChallenge initiative for Hampshire's young people.

The virtual world is allowing us to engage people in physical activity like never before. The winter months are more challenging due to the changes in weather, but hopefully by then most children will be back at school with more space available to them - if not then our work will continue delivering activities using minimal space and equipment, that are fun and engaging regardless of the weather. 

The online delivery and the innovative content of the work being provided by the YST and SGOs will help to keep students active, along with the encouragement from their PE teachers in school. There is something for everyone, and we hope, with the feedback we are gathering, that we will continue to encourage the less active to join in.

SGOs believe a move online could help to overcome some of the challenges that they face to engage young people in sport at school during exam seasons, providing more flexibility for young people who may be less willing to join in large-scale outdoor events because of time constraints. Already, SGOs are reporting how many children are engaged beyond the school gates.

Evie (8) is Holly’s daughter. She has been helping her mum to set daily challenges for her peers and parents who are turning to social media for help and days in school remain staggered for most.

Hopscotch Shuttle, Sit Down Stand Up and Tri Golf challenges are some of the activities she has been giving tutorials on for primary school children.

She said:

It’s important for young people to stay active at this difficult time as we need to be healthy. The coronavirus has stopped us doing our clubs, I am missing six hours of gymnastics, one hour of netball and playing with my friends each week, so we need to do other types of activity to keep fit and healthy.

SGOs have been redeployed by Sport England and the Youth Sport Trust to help care for pupils and families with an aim to reduce sedentary behaviour and boredom and foster daily exercise habits and a positive use of technology. All activities created include inclusive games and ensuring activities can be played with varying space and equipment.

In Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, SGOs have been setting weekly competitions virtually for schools and families. Lockdown medals have been awarded to those who participate and SGOs have kept the focus on encouraging young people to find their sport, reporting that the number of children normally considered inactive or who wouldn’t take part in team activities have now participated.

In Wolverhampton, SGOs have been helping young people with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities (PMLD) at a time when parents at home need more support than ever. They identified a gap in provision for inclusive activities for PMLD students and, through working with an early years team, wrote a programme for PMLD students to be used at home. The programme has now been picked up and used by eight other counties and SEN schools have sent it home to pupils.

The School Games, which is funded by Sport England National Lottery funding and delivered by the Youth Sport Trust, is a government led programme designed to deliver competitive school sport to all young people.

The network of School Games Organisers and Local Organising Committees (LOCs) have worked alongside the Youth Sport Trust in delivering three distinct levels of competition since the Games' inception in 2010 - ranging from intra - inter school activity, in addition to the National Finals, which is supported by National Governing Bodies.

For more information on the School Games and School Games Organisers visit

Published on 11 June 2020