More children are becoming active and healthy thanks to Change4Life Primary School Sports Clubs, an independent report has found.
The evaluation, conducted by the Sport, Physical Education and Activity Research (SPEAR) team at Canterbury Christ Church University, found that the number of children achieving at least 60 active minutes every day has increased by 69 per cent in four years with over a quarter of a million young people benefitting from the programme.
Since Change4Life Primary School Sports Clubs started in 2011, 270,000 primary school children have profited from the school-based clubs which offer an inspiring place to try out new sports and activities. In the academic year 2014/15, over 110,000 young people took part, up 77% in four years (62,500 in 2011/12).
The clubs aim to increase the physical activity, health and wellbeing of less active seven to nine year olds, of whom almost 82 per cent of those joining were previously not achieving at least 60 active minutes every day, including more than 69 per cent who were not achieving at least 30 active minutes every day.
The report, commissioned from October 2013 to March 2015, provides a lifetime evaluation of the programme, having surveyed over 7,500 young people from over 500 Change4Life Primary School Sports Clubs in this the third such report of its kind.
Youth Sport Trust Chief Executive, Ali Oliver, said: "It is fantastic to see primary school Change4Life Sports Clubs going from strength to strength. These clubs encourage children to have more positive attitudes to physical activity and make healthy choices, and we are delighted this report also evidences impact upon children's confidence, creativity, aspirations, resilience and empathy - these are essential lifeskills and character traits which will help them achieve elsewhere in wider school life."
One child participant said: "I didn't want to take part in PE because I didn't think I would be good enough for it. But the activities here have helped me. I feel I can take part in PE now."
Oliver added: "We know the world is slowing down and children are moving less, but Change 4 Life Sports Clubs have helped 270,000 children make progress towards the Chief Medical Officers recommendation of sixty active minutes a day. This evaluation has shown not only what can be achieved through innovative approaches but also the potential impact of the Change 4 Life Sports Clubs programme if it were available to all schools."
Funded by the Department of Health, in partnership with the Youth Sport Trust, the clubs are run by a designated member of staff within the school and young leader students, and support from School Games Organisers.
Since the programme began, the involvement of primary pupils in the delivery has more than doubled, with almost a quarter of schools now providing opportunities for their children to help run the clubs.
Targeting those to be included in the Change4Life Sports Clubs is done sensitively to reduce any stigma that may be attached to membership. Schools have taken a number of approaches to offer a level of kudos and prestige to be part of the club.
Demonstrating the success of the programme at Rowanfield Junior School in Cheltenham, High Level Teaching Assistant Mark Cratchley said: "We had some initial concerns around how the club members would be viewed by other children so we did a launch assembly to get everyone excited about the club and asked pupils to volunteer as helpers too. It wasn't a case of us saying 'You need it!' but was pupil led and as a result there is no stigma and the children feel ownership over the club and are pleased to be part of it."
The clubs run for 12 weeks, mostly at lunchtime or after school, with 15 members and two young leaders. They offer a variety of activities using Change4Life Sports Club kits donated to the schools with the aim of helping schools to continue encouraging children to be healthy and active beyond the club.
Public Health Minister Jane Ellison said: "It is so important that young people are active from an early age and that it becomes a fun part of their daily routine, bringing significant benefits to both physical and mental health. I hope that the children reached through Change4Life continue to enjoy exercise throughout their lives."
This report is published on the one year anniversary of Everybody Active Everyday, a Public Health England framework to embed physical activity into school and college life.
For more information on Change4Life Sports Clubs, click here.
The full report is available to view on the SPEAR website here.