Government’s latest childhood obesity strategy is right to acknowledge the role of physical activity, says children’s charity the Youth Sport Trust (YST).
But it will be vital that schools and teachers are supported to deliver more physical activity in the right way, it argues.
YST works with more than 20,000 schools to improve young people’s wellbeing by developing new and innovative ways to engage young people in sport and physical activity. Next week (25 to 29 June) hundreds of thousands of young people will be taking part in events to celebrate the role of play and sport in education as part of the charity’s National School Sport Week.
Responding to government’s childhood obesity strategy, YST Chief Executive Ali Oliver said:
The growing childhood obesity epidemic is nothing short of a national crisis and it is right that government should set out a bold ambition to tackle it.
As we enter National School Sport Week, it is encouraging to see a much greater acknowledgement of the benefits of physical activity in this updated Childhood Obesity strategy.
There is an overwhelming body of evidence showing that nurturing an active lifestyle from childhood helps young people grow up healthier, happier and more likely to fulfil their potential. But for these interventions to be effective, it is vital that they are delivered in the right way.
Through the primary PE and Sport Premium, government is investing over £1 billion in improving PE in primary schools. This has the potential to transform a generation’s formative experience of PE and school sport, but to do so it must be invested in building capacity within schools rather than short-term fixes. This means upskilling staff and helping to turn a daily mile into long-term strategies for inspiring daily physical activity.
YST worked with the Department of Health and Social Care to set up 9,500 Change4Life sports clubs in England as part of government’s previous childhood obesity plan. These clubs encouraged less active children to take up physical activity and engage in school and led to a 67% increase in children meeting the target 60 daily minutes of physical activity.
Ali Oliver added:
“Our work with the Department of Health and Social Care establishing Chang4Life sports clubs across England showed the huge difference that can be made by nurturing fundamental movement skills in a vibrant and fun way. We stand ready to work with government on tackling the national crisis in young people’s health and wellbeing.”
YST has set out four key asks which will be essential for the latest childhood obesity strategy to achieve its aim:
- Maximise the impact of the PE and Sport Premium
- Improve the quality of physical activity
- Provide additional support for teachers
- Adopt a joined-up approach across government to youth sport