Sport England is aiming to tackle inactivity in colleges by providing funding to help get students exercising. According to the organisation, nearly one in five students at further education (FE) colleges in England are currently not active enough. This means 138,000 students are doing less than the recommended 30 minutes of physical activity five times a week.
Offering a mix of activities to students
To combat this, Sport England is funding 49 colleges to provide traditional activities, such as gym and fitness classes, archery, self-defence, yoga and Pilates. Plus, many new and novel activities are also being offered by the colleges, including ‘Raveminton’ – which involves playing badminton under UV lights with fluorescent lines, neon nets and shuttlecocks sprayed with UV paint – tag American football, bubble football and Parkour. The intention is to offer a wide range of activities to inspire students to get active, which will help to boost their mental and physical wellbeing.
The reasons for students becoming inactive at FE colleges are varied, according to Sport England. One factor is that for many students at college it is the first time they are not doing compulsory sport. Also, colleges educate more students from lower socio-economic groups, as well as more black, Asian and minority ethnic groups, and students with a disability. Sport England notes that all of these groups are traditionally less likely to be active for a variety of reasons.
The funding for colleges comes after the release of the British Active Students Survey (BASS) report for FE, delivered by the not-for-profit health body ukactive and AoC Sport in partnership with Matrix Fitness and Sport England. As well as detailing the challenges facing colleges in supporting students to be active, the report also strikes a note of optimism. For example, most students are aware that sport and physical activity are good for their education, employability, health and wellbeing. Additionally, those who are most active have the highest scores for mental wellbeing, social inclusion, social trust and perceived academic attainment, plus the lowest levels of loneliness.
Increasing the use of outdoor spaces with sports canopies
As well as offering this mix of traditional and innovative activities to students, the use of outdoor areas for a wide range of sports can be increased by installing all-weather sports canopies. These tensile membrane covers will allow play – both formal and informal – to continue whatever the weather or light conditions. On this subject, Sport England also offers advice on designing covered outdoor spaces.
So, it is clear that it’s in everyone’s interest to encourage students to be physically active. Offering a variety of activities is likely to encourage high levels of participation and this will only be enhanced by making the facilities available for the maximum amount of time with the use of sports canopies. Happy and healthy students can only be a good thing for themselves, their colleges and their future employers.