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EACEA National Policies Platform


7. Health and Well-Being

7.3 Sport, youth fitness and physical activity

Last update: 25 January 2021
On this page
  1. National strategy(ies)
  2. Promoting and supporting sport and physical activity among young people
  3. Physical education in schools
  4. Collaboration and partnerships


National strategy(ies)

Scotland’s first sport strategy for children and young people was published in 2014. Giving Children and Young People a SportingChance covers the period up to 2024 and aims to encourage ‘lifelong participation in sport’, which is viewed as a spectrum of physical activity, not just discrete sports.

The key themes of the strategy are:

  • providing opportunities for children and young people to participate in sport
  • developing and supporting leaders and workers
  • providing great places to be active through sport
  • celebrating and communicating opportunities to take part in sport and the talents and successes of children and young people.

The strategy is inclusive, saying (p.8) that ‘sport should be for all, regardless of age, gender, race, disability, geography or other factors which could limit participation’. There is a particular focus on those not currently participating in, or disengaged from, sport.

A wide range of stakeholders are involved in implementation of the strategy’s objectives, including sportscotland, Education Scotland, Scottish Governing Bodies of sport, sports clubs, schools, higher and further education institutions, the third (voluntary) sector, volunteers, parents and carers.

The role of local authorities is regarded as key to the strategy’s successful implementation, as they are responsible for ensuring adequate provision of sporting facilities in their local area.

The National Strategic Group for Sport and Physical Activity is responsible for monitoring the ongoing delivery of the strategy.

At a local level, sport or physical activity strategies may be developed by NHSScotland, local authorities and regional health boards.

Promoting and supporting sport and physical activity among young people

In 2011, the Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland issued guidelines for recommended levels of physical activity for different age groups. These guidelines were last updated in January 2020 to better reflect the increased compelling evidence base for the positive correlations between regular physical activity and young people.  For children and young people aged 5 to 18 years these are as follows:  

  • Vigorous intensity activities, including those that strengthen muscle and bones, should be incorporated at least three days a week.
  • All children and young people should minimise the amount of time spent being sedentary (sitting) for extended periods.

These new guidelines allow greater flexibility for how and when children and young people can achieve the recommended levels of physical activity across the week. Contrary to 2011, the current evidence does not support a specific minimum daily threshold of 60 minutes of MVPA for health benefits, and instead recommends an average number of 60 daily minutes to be achieved across the week.


There is a range of programmes supported by the Scottish Government to support sport and physical activity among young people. Some of these are highlighted below.

Administered by sportscotland from 2008-2015 and by YouthLink Scotland for 2016/17, the CashBack for Communities Facilities Fund is aimed at community organisations working with disadvantaged young people across Scotland. Grants are available for upgrading equipment and improving facilities with the aim of getting more young people involved in sport and physical activity. This programme is currently closed for new applications.

The Active Girls programme, funded by the Scottish Government, aims to deliver four outcomes:

  • increased opportunities for girls and young women to participate in sport and physical activity
  • improved access to leadership opportunities and roles for girls and young women in school and community sport
  • greater recognition of the power of girls to motivate and inspire their peers and more opportunities to do so
  • enhanced knowledge and understanding on the part of the workforce delivering physical education (PE), sport and physical activity to girls and young women.

A range of other initiatives aimed at girls and young women, such as Fit for Girls, YDance Active and Girls on the Move, are offered as part of the Active Girls programme

The Active Girls programme also includes promotion of an ‘Active Girls Day’.

The Scottish Government set up a Sporting Equality Fund in 2016, with the aim of finding ways to close the gender gap in participation in sport that emerges in the early teenage years. Continued funding was confirmed in the Scottish Government’s programme for government for 2017-18 (p.95).

The programme for government also contains a commitment (p.11) to encourage active travel through increased funding.

The charity Sustrans is funded by the Scottish Government to run the Active Travel Champions programme. This involves helping young people at university or college to be more active through walking or cycling for more of their everyday journeys. Champions give advice about walking and cycling and/or set up walking and cycling activities and, in return, Sustrans offers training, resources and support.

Funding is also available through Sustrans for schools wishing to improve walking and cycling routes. The Safer Routes to Schools Fund provides match funding for the development of safe walking and cycling infrastructure associated with school travel.

Street Soccer Scotland is a non-profit social enterprise that delivers a range of football-related services to socially disadvantaged adults and young people across Scotland. It uses football inspired training and personal development as a medium to empower people who are affected by social exclusion, to make positive changes in their lives. It receives Scottish Government funding under the Legacy 2014 programme.

All-age community sport hubs are Lottery-funded and are one of sportscotland's key programmes, contributing to the legacy of the 2014 Commonwealth Games, which were held in Glasgow. In the 2018/19 sportscotland report, they outline the aim to set up 200 community sport hubs by 2020, with 50% to be based in schools.

A community sport hub is focused on the clubs around a sport centre, community centre, school, park or a playing field pavilion. In some cases, a community sport hub combines a number of these places, or it may centre on a single venue hosting many clubs. The 'hub' is essentially a collective of progressive sport clubs working together in a local community.

A report was published in 2018 of an overview of the programme, commissioned by sportscotland.

As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, sportscotland committed to providing Scottish Governing Bodies of Sport (SGBs) and local partners across the system with six months of their annual investment (£16.4 million) in April/May 2020. The investment is funded jointly by the Scottish Government and The National Lottery and is designed to support local partners and clubs and community organisations across the country as part of the Community Sport Hub (CSH), Direct Club Investment (DCI) and Active Schools programmes.  

Physical education in schools

The senior (upper secondary) phase of education includes years Secondary 4 (S4) to S6 (ages 15/16 to 18). School is compulsory to the age of 16. Although there is no statutory curriculum, health and well-being is one of the eight areas which make up the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE). Along with the curriculum areas of literacy and numeracy, health and well-being is described in the CfE as being ‘recognised as …. particularly important’ and ‘the responsibility of all staff’. Schools are expected to provide health and well-being education in line with the ‘experiences and outcomes’ statements of the CfE. These describe expectations for learning and progression in health and well-being education and extend into the entire senior phase for those remaining at school.

The experiences and outcomes for health and well-being are structured around six organisers, one of which is ‘physical education, physical activity and sport’.

Physical education(PE) is described (p. 5) as a platform from which learners can:

build physical competences, improve aspects of fitness, and develop personal and interpersonal skills and attributes. It enables learners to develop the concepts and skills necessary for participation in a wide range of physical activity, sport, dance and outdoor learning, and enhances their physical wellbeing in preparation for leading a fulfilling, active and healthy lifestyle.

Through PE, physical activity and sport, learners :

encounter a variety of practical learning experiences, including working on their own, with a partner and in small and large groups, and using small and large equipment and apparatus, both outdoors and indoors.

The experience and outcomes for PE, physical activity and sport also state that learning is ‘enhanced by participating on a regular basis in a wide range of purposeful, challenging, progressive and enjoyable physical activities with choice built in for all learners’.

In 2011, the Scottish Government made a commitment to ensure that, by 2014, every pupil would benefit from at least two hours of PE in primary school and two periods (100 minutes) in S1 to S4 each week (ages 12 to 16). In 2017, 93 per cent of schools met the target of providing at least 100 minutes of PE to all pupils in S1 to S4.

Education Scotland has developed a resource pack for PE and sport teachers based on the ‘Better Movers and Thinkers’ pedagogical approach. The resource pack is designed to support teachers to plan and facilitate learning in physical education.

sportscotland works in partnership with local authorities to support and promote sports and physical activity through the Active Schools programme. Active Schools aims to provide more and higher quality opportunities for children and young people to take part in sport and physical activity before school, during lunchtime and after school, and to develop effective pathways between schools and sports clubs in the local community.

Information booklet

Active Schools Report 2018- 2019

The sportscotland School Sport Award is a national, Lottery funded initiative designed to encourage schools to continuously improve PE and school sport opportunities.

One of the award criteria is that ‘All pupils should have access to a range of quality extra curricular sports and activities to take part in before, during and after school.’

There are no recommendations for physical education at tertiary level. Scottish Student Sport is a membership organisation, comprising both students and professional staff from higher and further education institutions across the country. It works in partnership with organisations including sportscotland, the Scottish Funding Council and British Universities and Colleges Sport in the delivery of its objectives, one of which is to increase student participation in sport.

Collaboration and partnerships

One of the principles of Community Sport Hubs is that they ’bring all appropriate (key) partners/ groups/people together’ (see ‘Promoting and supporting sport and physical activity among young people’).

See also ‘Collaboration and partnerships’ in the article ‘Healthy lifestyles and healthy nutrition’