Disadvantaged children least confident being active, research warns

Joe Lepper
Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Children from low-income backgrounds are far less confident in being active and taking part in sport, according to the Youth Sport Trust.

Sporting activities designed by peers are more likely to be successful, the report shows. Picture:
Sporting activities designed by peers are more likely to be successful, the report shows. Picture:

The Trust found that only around half of 11- to 16-year-olds from low income groups rated themselves as confident taking part in physical activity.

The proportion increases to three quarters among their more affluent peers.

Children from poorer backgrounds are also less likely to understand the benefits of sport and exercise to their wellbeing.

Just 32 per cent of children from low-income backgrounds believe PE will help achieve their ambitions in life, compared to 52 per cent of those form more affluent backgrounds.

The trust’s Class of 2035 report calls for this gap in attitude to sport and activity to be “closed in the short term”.

This is needed as participation in sport “has the potential to be a driver of social mobility and increased levels opportunity across all social groups”.

“However, for this potential to be unlocked, the extent to which income levels shape engagement with sport will need to be addressed,” it adds.

Teachers, rather than dads, have an important role in encouraging poorer young people to take up sport, according to the trust’s research

It found that young people from poorer backgrounds are more likely than their more affluent peers to be inspired by a schoolteacher or sports coach to be active.

Meanwhile, only 35 per cent of poorer children said their fathers have inspired them to be active, compared to 55 per cent of those from affluent backgrounds.

Peer led sporting activity has emerged as an increasingly successful strategy in engaging young people in sport, particularly those with disabilities, the report also found.

The proportion young people who would take part in sport if it has been designed and delivered by their peers has risen from 23 per cent in 2014 to 36 per cent in 2020. This proportion increases to 46 per cent among those with a disability.

Youth Sport Trust chief executive Ali Oliver warns that the Covid-19 pandemic has increased inequalities in young people’s participation in sport.

“Even before Covid-19, far too many young people were inactive and disengaged from sport,” she said.

“National lockdowns and school closures exacerbated inactivity and inequalities which meant that play and sport were less likely to be making a positive contribution to the lives of young people who were disabled, from ethnically diverse communities or less affluent backgrounds.

“Left unchecked, these inequalities will grow further,” Oliver added. 

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