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There is no strategy specifically aiming at youth fitness and physical activity.
However, there is the Policy Paper on Sport submitted by the Flemish Minister of Sport Philippe Muyters for the period 2014-2019 (Beleidsnota Sport 2014-2019).
The Policy Paper consists of eight objectives:
- facilitating grassroots sport (cf. sports open for all sections of the population) through various partnerships
- optimising the offer in sport facilities
- permanent strengthening of the healthy and ethical sports climate
- aiming at doping-free sport in Flanders
- investing in quality, professionalisation and employment
- developing and sharing knowledge and promoting sport
- achieving a return on the available top sport potential
- contributing to an international sports policy
The Policy Paper on Sport (2014-2019) focuses on the population in general and specifically on students and young people. The Policy Paper mentions also a specific objective targeting young people in vulnerable situations. It states that young people in vulnerable situations can be empowered through sports.
Measures and initiatives are taken to encourage youth fitness and physical activity by applying the EU Physical Activity Guidelines. Policymakers are developing a normative frame for ‘medically and ethically sound’ practice of sports. As is the case in many other sectors, the Flemish Government funds non-profit (sports) organisations that encourage physical activity. In Flanders, sports policy has a specific focus on youth sport activities, for instance, making use of the financial means of the Flemish Parliament Act of 2016 (decreet houdende de erkenning en subsidiëring van de georganiseerde sportsector). It also gives special attention to (organised) sporting opportunities for urban disadvantaged youth through the Participation Decree of 2008 (Participatiedecreet 2008). Youth fitness can be interpreted more widely than only physical condition.
Since 2016, the Flemish Agency Sport Flanders is responsible for the preparation, implementation and evaluation of sports policy in Flanders. In 2016, the budget of the Flemish Government allocated to the policy domain Sport was 121000000 euros. Every year, the implementation of the Flemish sports policy is evaluated in the business plan of the Flemish Agency Sport Flanders.
Youth fitness and physical activity
Youth focus in the Flemish Parliament Act (2016) concerning the recognition and subsidisation of the organised sport sector
The Flemish Parliament Act entered into force on 10 June 2016 (decreet houdende de erkenning en subsidiëring van de georganiseerde sportsector). It organises the recognition and the subsidising of sport organisations. This Flemish Parliament Act has also a policy focus on youth sport activities.
The Flemish Government wants to increase the quality of youth sport clubs with a consequential increase of youth participation. The Flemish Government funds non-profit (sports) organisations that encourage physical activities that have a beneficial effect on young people’s health and fitness.
In 2016, the expenditure of the Flemish Government directly connected with this decree was 25929000 euros.
Flemish Parliament Act (2012) concerning the stimulation and subsidisation of local sport policy
The Flemish Parliament Act entered into force on 6 July 2012 (decreet houdende het stimuleren en subsidiëren van een lokaal sportbeleid). It organises the subsidising of municipal and provincial sport organisations and the sport service of the Flemish Community commission. In 2016, the expenditure of the Flemish Government directly connected with this decree was 1299000 euro.
However, in 2014, the Flemish Government decided through a decree to change the budget allocation from the Act on local sport policy to the municipalities fund (Community Fund/Gemeentefonds). The budget is directly allocated to the municipalities and they have the autonomous authority concerning sports policy.
In 2010, the Flemish Government asked the Flemish School Sports Foundation (Stichting Vlaamse Schoolsport) to support and develop policies promoting sports and exercise in schools. At the same time, this Foundation also promotes sports and exercise after school through cooperation between schools and non-profit (sports) organisations in the school’s neighbourhood (see also grassroots sports activities).
Since 2018, the Flemish School Sports Foundation no longer exists. The organisation has a new policy plan and a new name, namely MOEV. MOEV aims to motivate and support schools and provides them with expertise for a qualitative and structured movement policy, embedded in a more wider health policy. They developed the MOEV-physical activity compass to inspire schools to develop a healthy mix of sitting down, standing up, exercising and working out. They give examples of activities, tips, materials, events and projects to stimulate sport and physical activity before, during and after school hours. Thereby, MOEV developed the instrument ‘Sport moves the school 2.0’ (see also further).
Flemish Outdoor Play Day
The Flemish Youth and Children’s Rights Policy Plan (2014-2019) mentions that the Flemish Government will organise and support the annual Outdoor Play Day (Buitenspeeldag). Since 2008, the Flemish Government organises Outdoor Play Days in cooperation with media partners and children’s channels.
Once a year, children are encouraged to play outside: Flemish television channels, such as Nickelodeon, VTM Kazoom and Ketnet, cancel their broadcast for a day while parents, youth leaders, sports coaches and local governments organise all kind of outdoor games and activities.
The role of sport as an activity supporting teamwork, intercultural learning, fair play and responsibility
Flemish Parliament Act of 20 December 2013 concerning healthy and ethical sport
The Policy Paper on Sport 2014-2019 (Beleidsnota Sport 2014-2019) mentions strengthening a healthy and ethical sport environment by stimulating ethical exercising. The Flemish Government will support knowledge sharing, exchange of good practices, the development of expertise, instruments and quality standards through learning networks.
The Flemish Parliament Act of 20 December 2013 (decreet inzake gezond en ethisch sporten) describes that ethical exercising as having three pillars: personal integrity (physical, psychological and sexual), fair play and social integrity (solidarity, diversity and inclusion). These three pillars have a special focus on the best interests of children and young people.
In 2016, the expenditure of the Flemish Government directly connected with this project is 45.000 euro.
Sportmix is a multicultural sport event. Sportrmix focuses on friendship, fair play and respect for different cultures. It is a sport event on which young people can learn more about other cultures.
Sportmix targets young people between the ages of 12 and 16. It is in the first place meant for schools.
Equal access to sport and physical activity for everyone
Participation Decree (2008)
The Flemish Government gave special attention to (organised) sporting opportunities for urban and disadvantaged youth, for instance by making use of the financial means of the Participation Decree (2008).
The Participation Decree entered into force on 1 January 2008. Through subsidies in the participation decree, the Flemish government wishes to promote the active participation of vulnerable groups in culture, youth and sports.
This Decree offers:
- policy instruments to stimulate the participation of various groups, such as young people from disadvantaged neighbourhoods, refugees, disadvantaged groups in youth care, (young) people with disabilities, etc.
- subsidies for projects that encourage participation. This particularly concerns initiatives related to socio-cultural work, communication, circulation and dissemination of artworks, financial obstacles, and physical access
- and grants for large scale cultural events.
Poverty Act (2003)
The Poverty Act (Armoededecreet) of 12 October 2003 provides grants for projects with an experimental and/or innovative nature. These grants are also meant for socially relevant projects (projecten Armoededecreet). An example of a call for projects in 2016 is 'Bridges between sport and/or youth work and children in poverty'.
The most marked problems in accessibility of leisure (sport) activities for young people (and children) in poverty are located in three areas:
- durable participation of vulnerable children and young people,
- financial assistance to enable participation
- skills and training of workers / volunteers / organizations to open up to (the environment and needs of) vulnerable children and young people.
Therefore, the Flemish Minister for Poverty Reduction, Liesbeth Homans (term: 2014-2019), launched a call for projects 'bridges between sport and/or youth and children in poverty' (projectoproep bruggen tussen sport, jeugdwerk en kinderen in armoede). In total, 100 project applications were submitted. From this, 19 projects were selected for a total amount of 860 432 euros.
Grassroots sport activities
The Policy Paper on Sport (2014-2019) mentions facilitating grassroots sport through various partnerships. The Flemish Government aims to stimulate people, including children and young people, to participate in sport on a lifelong basis through a dynamic grassroots sports policy. By doing so, the Flemish Government and the Flemish Agency Sport Flanders have launched the campaign ‘Sporters experience more’ (Sporters beleven meer). Under this campaign, cities and municipalities can receive an award if they succeed in reaching several sportive objectives.
Furthermore, the Flemish Government wants to ensure that this grassroots sports policy is qualitative, healthy and democratic. Increasing sports participation, stimulating physical fitness and strengthening social cohesion are central in this policy.
Grassroots sport activities for children and young people, mentioned in the Policy Paper on Sport (2014-2019), aim at offering after-school sport activities (Sportsnack and Sport after School). They are organised by the Flemish Agency Sport Flanders and MOEV (see also extracurricular sports activities).
Mechanisms for monitoring and evaluation
The Flemish Agency Sport Flanders and other sports organisations should present an annual activity and financial report on how they implemented the assignment of the decrees to the Flemish Government.
In Flanders, physical education is mandatory in secondary education. The compulsory taught time is two teaching hours per week. In secondary schools with study areas such as sports science (general education), physical education and sport (technical education) and top level sporting schools, physical education is taught more than two teaching hours per week. Students only are excused from physical education with a medical certificate.
Furthermore, the Flemish Agency Sport Flanders and MOEV stimulate and support schools to draw up a school sport policy to engage students in both physical education and local extracurricular activities outside school and to encourage students to participate in sports throughout the life-course (see sports activities outside the curriculum but within a school day).
The Policy Paper on Sport (2014-2019) also mentions supporting a sports offer for students in tertiary education. By doing so, the Flemish Agency Sport Flanders continues to support the extension, coordination and promotion of sports in high schools and universities in Flanders. This support is also regulated by the Flemish Parliament Act of 3 April 2009 concerning the allocation of grants for the extension, coordination and promotion of the sports offer in Flemish universities and high schools and the recognition and subsidising of the Flemish overarching student sport associations (Decreet houdende de toekenning van subsidies voor de uitbouw, de coördinatie en de promotie van het sportaanbod van de studentenvoorzieningen van de Vlaamse universiteiten en hogescholen en de erkenning en subsidiëring van een Vlaamse overkoepelende studentensportvereniging).
Pedagogical tools for teachers
The Policy Paper on Sport (2014-2019) mentions investing in quality, professionalisation and employment by developing competences, knowledge and skills through training, by offering knowledge, information and practical tools and facilitating employment in the sport sector. The Flemish Agency Sport Flanders and the Flemish School for Sports Trainers (Vlaamse Trainersschool) have a role in the implementation of this objective.
For sports teachers in particular, The Flemish Agency Sport Flanders stimulates sports teachers to undertake further training. By doing so, the Flemish Agency Sport Flanders organises training and courses for sports teachers through the Flemish School for Sports Trainers (Vlaamse Trainersschool).
Under the authority of the Flemish Ministry of Education and Training and together with Klascement, an educational portal site providing various teaching materials was developed. It makes the results of the Flemish Government projects available to a wider range of educational stakeholders.
Physical activities outside the curriculum but within the school day
The Policy Paper on Sport (2014-2019) states that it will strive for a tailor-made sports offer in every life stage. In this connection, there is the organisation of school sport events and the stimulation of after-school sport.
The Flemish Agency Sport Flanders and MOEV organise these school sport events during school days.
Furthermore, physical activities outside the curriculum but within the school day are implemented through the scheme ‘Sports moves your school 2.0.’ (Sport beweegt je school) of MOEV. ‘Sports moves your school’ is a tool which supports schools to draw up a qualitative physical activity and sport policy and to achieve realistic goals for implementing high-quality, integrated motion within classroom settings, promoting physical activity both within and between lessons.
Extracurricular sports activities
As mentioned in the Policy Paper on Sport (2014-2019 and the Flemish Youth and Children’s Rights Policy Plan (2014-2019), there is the organisation of Sportsnack for children aged between 8 and 12 years and the organisation of Sport after School (Sport Na School (SNS)) for young people aged between 12 and 18 years.
Since 2014, when the SNS project was launched in Flanders, teachers have granted half-hour exemption from their teaching assignment in order to develop, together with the municipal sports services and local sports providers, sports provision for young people aged between 12 and 18 years. This project is mostly aimed at young people who are not yet members of any sports club and who do not want to commit themselves to a sporting activity on a regular basis. For a fixed (low) amount, the SNS pass allows these young people to practise organised sports immediately after school, free of obligation, throughout the school year. This initiative is being rolled out across Flanders during 2015.
Practical coordination is ensured at the level of each province, while central management and general promotion of the initiative are organised at Flemish level, by means of a partnership between Bloso and MOEV.
In addition, there is reinforced cooperation between the policy domains sport and education to expand and optimise the after-school sport offer.
The Policy Paper on Sport (2014-2019) and the Flemish Youth and Children’s Rights Policy Plan (2014-2019) mention organising a qualitative after-school sports offer for children and young people. By doing so, the Flemish Government asked MOEV to support and develop policies promoting sports and exercise in schools. The Flemish Government also asked the Foundation to encourage sport after school through cooperation between schools, municipalities and non-profit (sports) organisations in the school’s neighbourhood. This objective is in line with the concept of Community schools with sports (Brede school met sportaanbod).
The organisation of Sportsnack and Sport after School (see also extracurricular sports activities) are part of the concept Community Schools with sports. Community Schools with sports have an active cooperation with sport clubs, youth work, etc. within a neighbourhood and increase the participation of children and young people in sports.
The Flemish Government also supports Flemish sport events which will contribute to several policy objectives on sport.
The collaboration of Community schools with sports is supported by municipal subsidies. These municipal subsidies are provided from the Community Fund (gemeentefonds).
Call for projects 2016 'Bridges between sport and / or youth work and children in poverty'
See also 7.3 Sport, youth fitness and physical activity.