In another massive success for The Telegraph’s Keep Kids Active campaign, after-school sport and activity will be cleared to resume when schools fully reopen on March 8 and will then be followed three weeks later by the resumption of outdoor community sport.
New ‘Step One’ guidance will be announced in a statement to parliament on Monday and will allow organised outdoor adult and children’s sport to resume from March 29, the Monday before Easter. This is set to include grassroots football and cricket for adults and children, as well as the reopening of tennis courts and golf courses.
The Telegraph’s Keep Kids Active campaign had specifically called on the Government to prioritise the physical and mental health of young people by restarting children’s sport at the earliest opportunity as part of five key campaign aims.
And this will be written into Johnson’s four-step lockdown roadmap that will initially focus on education, physical activity and an increase in outdoor social contact.
This first step will come in two phases, with the reopening of schools to specifically also include extracurricular sport on top of regular PE as a means to reintegrate children in organised sport.
Although some community sports clubs did continue during December, extracurricular sport has been non-existent in a large number of schools since the start of November.
The national lockdown has then brought an end to all organised sport since the start of January.
The resumption of outdoor grassroots sports for children and adults from the end of March will be widely welcomed by governing bodies and is earlier than many had expected. The one big caveat is the three-week gap following the full reopening of schools.
The Government will carefully monitor the impact of each stage of its roadmap on Covid-19 transmission rates and will be watching for any significant increases in infections during March.
It is significant, though, that grassroots sport has been prioritised ahead of other sectors, including non-essential retail and leisure.
There will also be a big national push to promote sport and physical activity, especially in schools.
Fewer than one in five children currently consider themselves to be physically literate and there is particular concern at rising obesity levels and declining mental health, with one in six children identified with ‘probable mental disorders’ in 2020 compared to one in nine in 2017. There was a drop of almost 100,000 in the number of children who reached recommended daily activity levels last summer compared to 2019 and around three-quarters of teachers reported concern at the fitness of pupils when they did return last September.
The return of grassroots sport in time for the Easter holidays is also significant for sports clubs and follows the Government announcement a £10 million fund to help schools open sports facilities outside of teaching times.
The money will be distributed from the Department for Education to Sport England and will be specifically used to support schools in making facilities available at evenings, weekends and during forthcoming Easter and Summer holidays. Ali Oliver, the chief executive of the Youth Sport Trust, also wants the government to organise a special “recovery term” that prioritises sport, activity, physical education and time spent outdoors following the Easter break. “We urge Government to put children’s overall wellbeing at the heart of thinking,” she said.
“To ensure that can happen, it will be vital that clear guidance is provided around the safe provision of daily physical activity, PE and after school sport so teachers and coaches can feel confident in their delivery on reopening.”