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BLOG: Sport and physical activity, so much more than just physical health

04 June 2019

Last month AoC Sport released the findings of the British Active Students Survey: Further Education, in partnership with ukactive. In this blog, Matt Rhodes, Policy Manager at AoC Sport, explains the wider implications of sport and physical activity for colleges. If an IT system improved students’ mental health, increased employability and attainment whilst also reducing loneliness and social isolation, it would be in high demand from colleges. The recent British Active Students Survey (BASS): Further Education has provided us with evidence to show that participation in sport and physical activity provides all these benefits as well as the obvious impact on physical health. Despite the overwhelming evidence, the level of investment in these activities varies greatly across the country. The new Ofsted Education Inspection Framework (EIF) provides further incentive for colleges to develop and sustain a broad activity offer by focusing on how colleges are “developing learners’ understanding of how to keep physically healthy and maintain an active lifestyle” and confirming that inspectors will evaluate “the range, quality and take-up of extra-curricular activities offered”. We also know that Outstanding providers will need to ensure that participation in these activities is very high, particularly among those from disadvantaged backgrounds, and that all learners benefit from these opportunities and experiences. We now have the evidence and further incentive from Ofsted to develop physical activity in colleges. The scope for increasing participation is huge - the BASS report showed us that just 29.2% of FE students are meeting the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) guidelines of 150 minutes of activity per week. Inactivity is a societal issue and it is unrealistic to expect colleges to quickly establish “very high” levels of participation in these activities. Ofsted should consider how far students are reasonably able to contribute to decisions around what these opportunities might be and when and where they might be delivered. Some students will not aspire to be active, but colleges giving them the opportunity to influence the direction and delivery of such activities will support engagement whilst also supporting students’ wellbeing and wider personal development. We can’t hide away from the fact that creating a broad and high-quality enrichment offer comes at a cost. College sport staff need to ensure they can evidence the impact of their provision to show a return on investment. This will be one of the discussion topics during breakout session 1.2 at AoC Sport and ECFA National Conference 2019 on Wednesday 5 June. Eddie Playfair (Senior Policy Manager, AoC) and I will lead a discussion about how colleges could provide strong evidence of this contribution as part of a college inspection.