Guest blog by Josh Lenthall, Senior Strategic Relationship Manager at Active Oxfordshire

As I speak to counterparts from across the country and talk of the challenges that children and young people in Oxfordshire face, very often there is surprise on people’s faces and in their responses:

“But Oxfordshire is all dreaming spires and affluent scholars isn’t it?”

“People in Oxfordshire aren’t deprived!”

“You think that’s bad, try (insert location X)”

And of course, we are very fortunate to live and work in a county that is regularly at the top of the charts for physical activity and health measures, with high employment and relative affluence. But we know that under the ‘wealthy and healthy’ exterior lie significant inequalities and you don’t have to dig too deep to find them!

Active Oxfordshire

As relative newbies to the Voluntary and Community Sector in Oxfordshire perhaps I should rewind a fraction and introduce Active Oxfordshire.

Active Oxfordshire is a Kidlington based charity, aiming to transform lives across Oxfordshire through the power of being physically active. As a small (but mighty) team of eight we can’t do all things, for all people, so have a particular focus on how physical activity can improve the lives of those in our most deprived wards where we know physical inactivity is highest.

So what’s the current state of play? (pardon the pun)

Only 21% of children in Oxfordshire achieve the recommended amount of physical activity per day. Yes, 79% of children in Oxfordshire are not getting enough physical activity! Whilst this puts Oxfordshire in the top three counties in the country for physical activity levels (which paints a scary picture nationally!), Active Oxfordshire take the view that this isn’t cause for back patting and celebration. Rather, it is a ticking time bomb.

There is a wealth of scientific evidence that shows that active children:

  • Learn better
  • Experience better mental wellbeing than inactive children
  • Are at lower risk of a range of diseases
  • Develop important characteristics like resilience, determination and perseverance.

But 4 out of every 5 children are not enjoying these benefits. When we dig a bit deeper we find that those children growing up in deprived areas are even less likely to be active. And, in some of our most deprived wards, over 40% of children are overweight or obese by age 11.

So how can we bring about a change?

Young people not currently engaging in physical activity will often have specific reasons that are very personal to them. Some young people have had a negative experience of PE at school. Others feel embarrassed at a perceived lack of ability. For some taking part can be too expensive, and for many they have very limited time to fit anything else into their day.

So it is important that, as a sector, we begin to understand and unpick the barriers that young people face to physical activity. And we need to involve them in the design of provision so they can take part when they want, how they want and, importantly, with who they want. And unsurprisingly the biggest factor in a young person’s involvement in being active is ENJOYMENT! If it is fun, they will keep doing it!

Being physically active doesn’t need to cost anything, can be done in a time efficient way and doesn’t need a lycra-clad instructor with a wealth of qualifications and experience! Often, with creativity, by involving the young people in the design process, and by creating a fun environment, it can be simple to make transformational change through being more active. Dodgeball, a water fight, walking to school or climbing a tree are all physical activity!

Children and Young People’s Forum

Active Oxfordshire is here to support organisations who are working with young people and are excited to be hosting the next Children and Young People’s Forum on 29th August 2019. On the evening, we will take you through:

  • Recent Oxfordshire consultation findings
  • Funding opportunities for physical activity projects
  • Case studies from other Oxfordshire Youth members we have been working with
  • Themed discussions kindly facilitated by Oxfordshire MIND and KEEN

There will even be table tennis, boccia, and food provided. So, book HERE for what promises to be a great evening.

Image by Kevin Phillips from Pixabay