7.3 Sport, youth fitness and physical activity
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The first Welsh Government sport and physical activity strategy for all ages was published in 2005. Climbing Higher set out, for all ages, the strategic direction for sport and physical activity in Wales over the following 20 years.
Climbing Higher was supplemented, in 2009, by an all-age physical activity plan, Creating an Active Wales . ‘Active Children and Young People’ is one of the themes of the strategy. There are no actions in the strategy beyond 2015 but the targets are set for policy up to 2025.
The Physical Activity Executive Group (PAEG, established by the Welsh Government in 2013, to increase levels of exercise, and involving Sport Wales and Public Health Wales) is developing a pan-Wales physical activity plan, building on the work of Creating an Active Wales.
Following the successful implementation of its first three year strategic plan (2015-2018), Public Health Wales have published a new long term strategy covering 2018-2030; Working to achieve a healthier future for Wales.
The 2017/18 annual remit letter for Sport Wales provides an indication of current Welsh Government priorities for sport and physical education. This includes that they should contribute to the overall health and activity commitments in the Welsh Government’s programme for government, Taking Wales Forward 2016-2021. The letter also required Sport Wales to carry out a review of its school sport programmes. The 2018-2021 remit letter, a corporate plan for 2018-2021 outlined the following commitments, objectives and outcome:
- Encouraging and facilitating opportunities for more people to be active at every stage of their lives.
- Sport Wales to continue to work with Education to ensure children have the best start in life by encouraging and supporting schools to develop pupils’ physical literacy and well-being.
- Investing effort and resources where it is needed most, where there are significant variations in participation and where there is a lack of opportunity or aspiration to be active.
- Helping sport to continue to nurture, develop and support talent to deliver success that inspires people and reinforces our identity as a sporting nation.
- Supporting the sector to achieve a greater impact with public investment, to adapt, become more resilient and demonstrate better its contribution to our national wellbeing goals and objectives.
- Exploring the use of technology and innovation to engage and re-engage people in sport and to maintain their interest and enthusiasm for as long as possible.
- Develop proposals for a new Challenge Fund which embraces innovation and technology to deliver an increase in sports participation and explore a partnership with Public Health Wales to combine it with a Well-being Bond to create a joint fund aligned to the Healthy and Active objectives of Prosperity for All.
The independent review (Review of Sport Wales : an Independent Report), published in July 2017, concluded (p.7) that:
Welsh Government should produce a long-term policy statement and strategy for physical activity that clarifies the respective roles and responsibilities of Ministers, departments, agencies, sponsored bodies and others to deliver a healthy and active nation.
One of the recommendations of Getting Wales Moving, a joint report by Public Health Wales and Sport Wales, is to develop, fund and implement a strategic ten-year plan that sets clear outcomes and goals for indoor and outdoor spaces for physical activity to support people in every community to enjoy being active.
The Welsh obesity strategy, Healthy Weight: Healthy Wales consultation, published in January 2019 provides a draft plan for helping people achieve and maintain a healthy weight. This includes supporting Welsh business to reformulate and to develop healthier food choices by providing increased help through Food Innovation Centres, and limiting the promotion of unhealthy foods. It also recognises that there is an opportunity to influence eating and activity habits amongst young adults as they are beginning to make independent decisions about lifestyle choices. Environments within higher and further education can help to promote and support positive lifestyle behaviours such as a healthy diet and being physically active.
Promoting and supporting sport and physical activity among young people
In 2020, the Welsh Government announced various funding streams to support sports clubs and organisations during COVID-19. £8 million was allocated to the Sports Relief Fund, with this funding being led by Sport Wales.
Sport Walesannounced the launch of the “Be Active Wales” fund, £4million to help grassroots clubs and organisations re-start activities safely following lockdown. Amounts from £300 to £50,00 can be applied for.
In 2011, the Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) of England, Scotland, 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.
In 2019, the National Assembly for Wales Health, Social Care and Sports Committee published the results of an inquiry into the physical activity of children and young people that began in 2016. Among 20 others, the following recommendations were made:
- The Welsh Government should work with Sport Wales, Public Health Wales and other partners to develop an agreed national measurement framework for physical activity levels and fitness as a matter of priority, to standardise and improve data collection.
- The Welsh Government should extend the Child Measurement Programme to monitor childhood obesity beyond age 4-5. We believe the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health’s recommendation of a measurement after birth, before school and in adolescence should be implemented as a minimum.
- The Welsh Government’s recognition of the need to focus on family orientated approaches is taken forward in the final strategy to prevent and reduce obesity, and includes ambitious targets and effective monitoring to ensure tangible outcomes.
- The Welsh Government should further action in the new curriculum to ensure that every child in Wales is enabled to develop the essential Fundamental Motor Skills required at an early age in school, and ensure that current gaps in the foundation phase related to these skills are fully addressed. We would support investment for programmes such as SKIP Cymru to be rolled out across the country to ensure that every school in Wales is able to adequately support children to learn these skills.
- The Welsh Government works with Estyn to ensure it includes, as part of its inspection regime, an assessment of the choice of activities available in schools, equality of access for girls and boys and whether pupils are being consulted on the activities being provided.
The Welsh Government funds free swimming during school holidays for those aged 16 and under at local authority-run leisure centres.
The Welsh Government also funds Gemau Cymru, an annual bilingual event, which provides an opportunity for selected young athletes to compete in a high profile multi-sport event, and experience an athlete village environment, as preparation for a possible Olympic, Commonwealth or Paralympic sports pathway.
The Sports Facilities Capital Loan Scheme was introduced as a pilot by the Welsh Government in 2015/16. The scheme helps local authorities to support the development and provision of local sport and recreation facilities for all ages that:
- are modern, inclusive, attractive and accessible
- meet local needs
- are efficient and effective in raising participation levels in sport and physical activity
- maximise the use of the outdoors and the natural environment.
The Football Association of Wales (FAW), the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) and Hockey Wales, together with Sport Wales, have formed the Collaborative Sports Facilities Group to establish a nationally agreed vision and model for clubs, and to increase participation through appropriately located and fit-for-purpose artificial playing surfaces. In allocating its funds and resources, the Group considers the sharing of facilities, location, better access to facilities for women and girls, and ensuring facilities complement each other rather than compete.
The Welsh Government also supports grassroots football via Sport Wales, which provides annual funding to the Football Association of Wales Trust, the body responsible for the development of grassroots football in Wales. The Trust aims, in particular, to increase participation by women and girls.
The Young Ambassador programme aims to empower and inspire young people to become leaders through sport, who help and encourage their less active peers to participate.
Young Ambassadors are recruited, trained and deployed in schools, colleges and universities across Wales. The expectation is that a Young Ambassador will:
- be the young person's voice for physical education (PE) and school sport in their school and community
- promote the positive values of sport
- be a role model and champion for PE and school sport
- increase participation opportunities and encourage healthy lifestyles.
The Young Ambassador programme is run in partnership between Sport Wales, the Youth Sport Trust and the sport development team in each local authority.
The Active Travel (Wales) Act (2013) places a requirement on local authorities to continuously improve facilities and routes for walkers and cyclists of all ages, and to prepare maps identifying current and potential future routes for their use. The Act also requires new road schemes to consider the needs of pedestrians and cyclists at the design stage. Under the Act, both the Welsh Government and local authorities have a duty to promote walking and cycling as a mode of transport. In 2016, the Welsh Government published its active travel action plan.
The Welsh Government sends Sport Wales an annual remit letter. This confirms the amount of funding being provided and sets out the priorities and targets which Sport Wales should focus on in that year. The remit letter from the Welsh Government to Sports Wales for 2018-2021 outlines the priorities for the period of the remit are set in the context of ‘Taking Wales Forward’ and ‘Prosperity for All’. Our commitments, informed by our well-being objectives, provide an opportunity to find fresh solutions to the challenges faced by Wales. They demonstrate how we are acting and working differently to support individuals to do well in all stages of their lives. (Taking Wales Forward is the Welsh Government’s programme for government for 2016-2021.)
Physical education in schools
Physical education is compulsory at both Key Stage 3 (ages 11-14) and Key Stage 4 (ages 14-16) of secondary education.
The programme of study for physical education says (p. 11) for Key Stage 4:
Physical education fosters a growing sense of personal responsibility for a healthy and active lifestyle through developing activities that can be enjoyed and sustained in the school and the community. Learners may choose the area of experience they know they enjoy and select activities they want to develop. There are opportunities to work collaboratively and refine skills in the creative, adventurous or competitive activities of choice. There are opportunities to develop skills of leadership, make informed judgements and develop advanced technical skills.
There is a focus on health, fitness and well-being activities. This area includes opportunities for students to:
- select, plan and engage in a variety of appropriate frequent and regular physical activities and explain how these affect their own health, fitness and well-being
- plan, perform and evaluate a specific training, general exercise or active lifestyle programme appropriate to their individual needs and goals.
In addition to developing their skills, knowledge and understanding of physical education through health, fitness and well-being activities, students are expected to engage in an activity or activities from at least one other area selected from creative, adventurous or competitive activities.
There are no requirements for taught time.
The Welsh Government-funded 5x60 programme aims to increase the number of secondary age pupils taking part in sport or physical activity for 60 minutes, at least 5 times a week. The programme complements existing sport and physical education (PE) provision in schools, through a range of extra-curricular sport and physical activity sessions. Schools/individual teachers are free to select the pedagogical tools they use.
Teaching and learning resources are available on the Hwb, the online digital learning hub for Wales. The Association for Physical Education (afPE), the UK PE subject association, also provides some free resources and tools.
Collaboration and partnerships
Partnerships are encouraged under the ‘community focused school’ approach, although government funding for the scheme ended in 2011.
Community focused schools provide a range of services and activities, often beyond the school day, to help meet the needs of pupils, their families and the wider community. This may include direct provision of sports activities on school premises, or allowing sports clubs and community groups to make use of school sports facilities.
The Public Policy Institute for Wales (PPIW) published a report on Increasing the Use of School Facilities in 2016.
Sport Wales' Community Sport Strategy 2012-2020, emphasises the importance of partnership working between the public, private and third sectors.