port England has warned that the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the disparity in children’s sport in a report published on Thursday.
Over the last year, there was a nine per cent drop in activity levels by children and young people from a black background while that drop was 17% during the pandemic.
And Lisa O’Keefe, Sport England’s insight manager, said there were concerns the impact of the pandemic were not “impacting every child equally”.
She said: “We can’t lose sight of those that struggled in the pandemic and the exacerbated differences that we were already seeing.”
Overall during the course of the past 12 months, there was a 1.9% decrease in children getting the 60 minutes of daily exercise recommended by the Chief Medical Officer, with just 45% children in England now getting the recommended daily exercise. And the drop was notable among boys, with girls keeping roughly their same activity levels.
In addition, there was a marked drop of 16% in children taking part in sporting activities, for example team sports, athletics, running and swimming – the equivalent to one million children across the length and breadth of England. Team sports and swimming saw a drop of as much as 25% but there was a sharp increase in walking, cycling and fitness.
Children from the most affluent families remain the most active at 53% although that figure dropped during the course of the pandemic.
Sport England warned that the figures would have shown an even more demonstrable drop without the “resourcefulness and parents, teachers, volunteers and clubs that were trying to help children move more during the pandemic”.
O’Keefe added: “That’s why the numbers aren’t as bad as we might had feared so that’s the real positive. It’s not the case that everyone’s stopping and sitting on the couch. “But there are a million fewer children taking part in sporting activities so that’s a lot of kids to get back and get confident and build up their fitness levels again.”