Covid Scotland: Three quarters of primary schools have suspended sports activities during the pandemic

Nearly three quarters of primary schools have suspended all extra-curricular activities during the pandemic, leaving millions of children without their recommended 60 minutes of daily exercise, a report has found.

A study found 72 per cent of schools in the UK have put all sport and other extra curricular activities on hold due to the coronavirus crisis, while 45 per cent of children are not getting their recommended daily exercise due to the impact of the pandemic on children’s sports clubs, according to the study by fundraising platform

It is estimated 240,000 fewer children will be able to swim 25 metres by the end of this academic year as a result of suspended swimming lessons and leisure centre closures. Meanwhile, 73 per cent of gymnastics clubs are said to be at risk, with 55 per cent facing permanent closure, alongside 12 per cent of football clubs.

However, Marguerite Hunter Blair, chief executive at Play Scotland, said more focus in Scotland during the past academic year had been on outdoor learning rather than formal sport.

Three quarters of primary school extra curricular activities have been scrapped due to the pandemic.

She said: “I think what's happened in Scotland is that a lot of those more competitive type of structured activities haven't been going ahead, but there's been more informal play and outdoor play and learning opportunities.

"[Sport] is not something we want to lose from the curriculum going forward, but it just maybe wasn't a priority this year or last year in trying to incorporate that with so many other things to worry about.

"Hopefully this summer holidays will help restore children and families back to where they were before the pandemic and be in a better place.”

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She added: “The focus in Scotland is about children's wellbeing and if you get that right, then the academic support will come – the sports and physical literacy, the things that go with the sport activities such as physical co-ordination, social skills, they learn to lose, all that type of thing.

"All that comes once you've had a good experience of play, but I think a lot of children at the moment need to be in a more healing place.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman pointed to the Get Into Summer fund, which has handed out £15 million for summer activities to organisations such as local councils and sports groups to target those aged up to 25 from low-income households who may otherwise struggle to access active experiences during the holidays.

A spokesperson for national agency sportscotland said it worked with all 32 local authorities to support the Active Schools Network.

He said: “We are continuing to work closely with all our partners to address the challenges presented by the ongoing pandemic and that will remain a key priority over the coming weeks and months.

"The Active Schools programme will play an important part in that recovery and we will continue to work with partners to ensure that as many young people as possible benefit from taking part in sport and physical activity.”

Dan Schofield, chief executive at Play Fund Win, said: “We know just how important grassroots clubs and organisations are for maintaining young people’s mental and physical wellbeing. With so many clubs across the nation reaching crisis point, fundraising is vital in order to preserve these valued institutions and provide much needed resources and equipment.”

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