Disadvantaged groups being left behind as children’s activity levels bounce back

Sport England’s latest Active Lives Children and Young People Survey has been released, presenting data on children aged 5-16 for the year following the removal of most legal restrictions related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

By James Burbidge · 12th December 2022

Sport England’s latest report shows a return to pre-pandemic levels of children and young people meeting the Chief Medical Officers’ guidelines of taking part in an average of 60 minutes or more of sport and physical activity a day. The survey also provides more evidence as to the positive impact of physical activity on mental health – with an increase in the proportion of children exercising to relax and worry less, and socially for fun with friends. However, there are also some worrying signs of groups being left behind.

Our CEO responds:

It’s fantastic to see young people’s physical activity levels have recovered to pre-pandemic levels given I know of so many coaches, volunteers, teachers and incredible organisations that have worked tirelessly to bring about that change. As a father to two girls, and a track coach to many young females, I was also delighted to see school age participation figures are up for girls and I think among other interventions, this is a credit to those working around ‘This Girl Can’ and the stronger media narrative we see promoting women and girls sport in a much stronger light.

However, I do find it incredibly sad and frustrating to see that despite best efforts, one third of our country’s children are unable to undertake at least 30mins of exercise a day and that the gap of inequality for many seemingly shows no signs of improvement. With the cost-of-living crisis and the fiscal climate for leisure centres only just beginning, it underlines the need to continue focusing on removing barriers as best we can so that more people can access not only sport and physical activity, but that the workforce that provides this are also considered and supported accordingly too.

Gary Laybourne, CEO

47.2% of children and young people (3.4 million) are meeting the Chief Medical Officers’ guidelines of taking part in sport and physical activity for an average of 60 minutes or more every day. Meanwhile, 30.1% (2.2m) do less than an average of 30 minutes a day.

Children and young people with Black, Asian and Other ethnicities are the least likely to be active. Those from low affluence families are still less likely to be active than those from high affluence (42% compared to 52%) and children and young people going to school in the most deprived places in the country have not seen activity recover to pre-pandemic levels. They are also less likely to say they have positive attitudes towards sport and physical activity, and they have lower wellbeing scores.

At Coach Core we are disappointed but not surprised to see these figures. We know these communities are regularly left behind and we believe that local, relatable role models are key to engaging them. That’s why, following our year 1 strategy review we have doubled down on our targets to support, train and educate more relatable young models into the sport and physical activity workforce to engage with children & young people from their communities. Currently 22% of our apprentices come from ethnically diverse communities (compared to 14% nationally) and 38% come from the UK’s most deprived areas (compared to ~30% nationally).

Our education supports Coach Core apprentices to look at, understand and deliver sessions that meet the needs of their local communities. They have started football sessions in crime hotspots to successfully bring down offending rates, created a table tennis club for Muslim girls that is growing every year, and opened a breakfast club that takes donated food to give primary school kids in a disadvantaged area a good meal to start the day.

Paul Thompson, National Education Manager

The impact these apprentices can make is clear:

“Our apprentice has become an incredible role model to the kids she coaches. Whilst she has a number of development points so early in her career, she is able to bond and interact with the participants from the local estates in ways that even us senior coaches can’t”
Hat-Trick, Newcastle

Many of Coach Core’s apprentices are passionate about this positive effect they can have on their community:

“I really wasn’t sure what to do with my life before Coach Core. However, thanks to the support I received, I found my comfort zone, and an excellent opportunity to effectively tackle some of the barriers that myself, and many others before me, have faced on and off the pitch. Through the sports coaching I provide and through social engagement activities and initiatives I’ve been involved with, it’s been great to try and break down these issues and engage with my local community”.
Renee, Birmingham

Having graduated, Renee now works at Aston Villa Foundation as a full-time Women’s Intervention Community Coach and uses her story to engage and inspire the people around her.

Read the full Sport England report here.


Sign up to our quarterly newsletter for the latest updates and activity from Coach Core:


Support us

Help us get more young people active through local community coaches

Learn more


About us

Find out more about who we are and what we do

Read more


10 Years of Coach Core

The Royal Foundation of The Prince and Princess of Wales started the Coach Core programme in 2012, in the wake of the London Riots and to contribute to the legacy of the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Read more