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Sport England Active Lives Children and Young People Survey

More than 40% of children in England do an average of more than 60 minutes of physical activity a day, a first-of-its-kind survey has found.

Sport England's Active Lives Children and Young People Survey shows that around 3 million children (43.3%) lead active lives, however of that group, only 1.2 million (17.5%) are meeting the Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines of more than 60 minutes of activity a day, every day of the week.

The survey is the largest ever of its kind and gives comprehensive insight into how children in England are taking part in sport and physical activity, both in and out of school.

Figures also show that more than 2.3 million children and young people (32.9%) are less active, meaning they do fewer than 30 minutes of physical activity a day.

While 77% of all children can swim 25 metres unaided by the time they leave primary school, that figure drops to 42% for children from the least affluent families and is at 86% for the most affluent.

Download the report based on responses from more than 130,000 children aged 5-16 in England during the academic year September 2017-July 2018.

If embedded links in the PDF do not function correctly in Google Chrome, please use another browser or open the report in a PDF viewer:

The research highlights the important role swimming plays in young people’s physical and personal development. The results also show the continued need to work with primary schools to improve swimming and water safety provision for all pupils, and ensure access to suitable water space.

Jane Nickerson, Swim England CEO, said: “Regular physical activity is important for any age group and it is encouraging to see swimming playing such an important role in helping to develop young people’s health and physical literacy. Learning to swim and understanding water safety has the extra dimension of keeping young people safe.

“As such, we have been pushing for government and schools to take swimming and water safety provision seriously for a number of years. The statistics today provide the first national benchmark, which supports our own research in this area. However, given swimming and water safety is a national curriculum requirement, there is no excuse for those statistics not to be at 100 per cent.

“This is particularly important when you look at the difference in swimming and water safety ability between pupils from higher affluence and lower affluence families. For those young people who are not able to take advantage of swimming lessons outside of school, years 1-6 of primary school will be their only chance. It is not acceptable that many pupils are still not being afforded this opportunity.”

The findings also show that over three quarters of young people between the ages of five and 16 say they want to swim more. Swim England is working with schools to provide greater links with local swimming and aquatics clubs, more opportunities during secondary school, and working with the sector to create greater opportunities.

To support this, Swim England is also undertaking research on levels of water deprivation to understand where additional facilities are required.

Key swimming-related findings of the report
  • Swimming is in the top 10 most prevalent activities across all age groups except Years 9-11 (ages 13-16)
  • Over 65 per cent of all children and young people (Years 1-11, ages 5-16) can swim 25 metres unaided
  • 77 per cent  of Year 7 pupils can swim the minimum national curriculum requirement of 25m unaided.
  • 86 per cent of Year 7 pupils say they can tread water
  • 81 per cent of Year 7 pupils say they can self-rescue
  • 66 per cent of boys can swim 25m unaided compared to 63 per cent of girls
  • 86 per cent of young people from the most affluent families can swim 25m unaided, compared to 42 per cent of those from the least affluent families. 

Emma Boggis, CEO at the Sport and Recreation Alliance said: “As a nation we must declare that enough is enough. Today’s results confirm that our children and young people are not active enough to be happy and healthy and collectively we are in danger of breeding a generation of children that will die earlier than their parents.

"The research we undertook in ‘Why are we failing our children?’ has shown that this crisis has been building for over forty years. It must stop now. This is why we have started a campaign which calls for every child to have the fundamental #RightToBeActive. We want to work with government to solve this crisis."

Read the Alliance's full response and find out how you can support their campaign to help every child be healthy and happy.

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