Dr Gemma van Vuuren Cassar – Written evidence (NPS0087)


Author background: Gemma is an academic in physical education and sports, and has been an executive member on the European Network of Sports Science, Education and Employment; European Network of Sport Education and contributed to funded projects of the European Union, World Health Organisation; UNESCO and the Health Enhancing Physical Activity Network. Gemma is a Principal Lecturer / Associate Professor of Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy at Canterbury Christ Church University, Kent.

Submission: I am submitting this evidence in my personal capacity. 


  1. How can local delivery, including funding structures, of sport and recreation be improved to ensure that people of all ages and abilities are able to lead an active lifestyle? For example, how successfully do local authorities and other bodies such as Active Partnerships, Leisure Trusts, local sports clubs and charities work together, and how might coordination be improved?


  1. How can children and young people be encouraged to participate in sport and recreation both at school and outside school, and lead an active lifestyle? If possible, share examples of success stories and good practice, and challenges faced.

I feel that there could be much more collaboration between local/regional Sports Coaching and Physical Education academic and vocational training providers and schools on many levels.  In addition to training, such alliances could provide opportunities for children and young people to participate in in sport and recreation.

1.What we did: In a lead up to the London Olympics, year I was the module leader of the BA/BSc in Physical Education and Sport and Exercise Science. The undergraduates on the year 3 Module “Learning in Physical Education” were supported with tutorials to work in groups to plan, manage, lead and record evidence of learning and personal bests for five sessions of after school club activities. The focus of the learning activities was based on the Kent 20in12 theme Challenges, Records and Personal bests. Each group focused on developing age appropriate physical activities, taking into account the areas of activities of the NCPE. Use of ICT and other recording of learning strategies were used to collate evidence of personal and group participation; and personal and group bests. Fun and success for every participant were an essential parameter of every session.


2.How we did it: The head of school of a local one entry form primary school circulated an invitation to each child to attend an afterschool club on five pre-set dates between January and March 2010.  The sessions were each of 1 hr 15 minutes There was an overwhelming response from 74 pupils (KS 1: 35 pupils and KS2: 39 pupils). This turned out to be the biggest afterschool club the school has ever had. It was for free!

The pupils enjoyed participating in physical activities for themselves (to improve their personal bests); and for the glory of the country they represented. When grouped by different year groups they assisted and communicated with each other to help each one in their group to achieve the best. Differentiated, inclusive and efficient scoring systems where put in place and the pupils registered their personal bests immediately after their participation. Written record of performance was kept by the activity leader, individual pupils and where suitable by a designated child group leader. There was a tremendous attitude of “let us do our best to achieve!” with support and cheering.

During a special school assembly a couple of weeks after the last session, the children were given a folder with certificates of participation; and where appropriate, records of their performances and their personal bests. For some sessions, the scoring systems also generated best country (group) scores too. The children enjoyed participating in the activities and they encouraged and motivated each other.

3.How the work lead to differences within the School? The school has been a great partner to work with and the recorded evidence of participation of pupils was celebrated on the school PE notice board while the afterschool club was running. Children were enthused and inspired to take part in physical activities and to do their best. Group and peer activities that required pupils to record personal bests demonstrated that children have a strong value of judgement, fairness and honesty.


  1. How can adults of all ages and backgrounds, particularly those from under-represented groups, including women and girls, ethnic minorities, disabled people, older people, and those from less affluent backgrounds, be encouraged to lead more active lifestyles? If possible, share examples of success stories and good practice, and challenges faced.



Sports governing bodies could develop a programme of “walking sports” that contributes to health enhancing physical activity for middle-aged adults (40-59). This programme could be piloted in one region in the first instance with the intention of rolling it out nation-wide. The programme needs to bring together various policies, provisions and stakeholders that provide Physical Activities for this age group (e.g. National Physical activity guidelines https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/physical-activity-guidelines-uk-chief-medical-officers-report). This programme could encourage the use of wearable technology to support participants in their journey to participate in walking sports or other physical activities; to understand the changes of the human body; and the impact of nutrition and physical activity on their health.


  1. Sporting Future: A New Strategy for an Active Nation, the Government’s 2015 sports strategy, outlines five outcome priorities: physical health, mental health, individual development, social and community development and economic development. Are these the right priorities and how successful has the government been in measuring and delivering these outcomes to date?


  1. Is government capturing an accurate picture of how people participate in sport and recreation activities in its data collection? How could this be improved?


  1. How can racism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny and ableism in sport be tackled?


  1. What can be done to improve and implement effective duty of care and safeguarding standards for sports and recreation actives at all levels?


  1. What are the opportunities and challenges facing elite sports in the UK and what can be done to make national sports governing bodies more accountable? For example, accountability for representing and protecting their membership, promoting their sport and maximising participation.


  1. What successful policy interventions have other countries used to encourage people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities to participate in sport and recreation, and lead more active lifestyles?

I will outline some of the success stories and initiatives of some European countries.

Austria: The aim of the “Fit Sport Austria Network” (formerly the Fit for Austria network) is to strengthen promotion of health-enhancing physical activity in sports clubs. A network of 30 coordinators in the three sports-for-all federations (ASKÖ, ASVÖ and SPORTUNION) work with the health sector to strengthen competence for health promotion in sports. Since 2006, the network has supported clubs in increasing the quality and quantity of health-oriented physical activity programmes. A “quality badge” is awarded to programmes that fulfil the requirements in administration, content and qualification of leadership and was designated an example of good practice in the European Union Physical Activity Guidelines in 2008. Today, almost 9000 high-quality, health-oriented physical activity courses are offered in Austria. The network is currently working to integrate a daily physical activity lesson into school curricula, led by local sports clubs and qualified coaches. www.fitsportaustria.at.

Belgium: The “10 000 Steps Flanders challenge” for municipalities (10.000 stappen clash) is a campaign to raise awareness about physical activity based on a community approach and various promotional materials. The challenge includes media strategies and an online registration tool for citizens with which they can monitor their steps and step goals and visualize the rankings of different municipalities. 10 000 Steps Flanders is the most widely, continuously implemented community project for health-enhancing physical activity in Flanders; it has been in place since 2009. The initiative has large population coverage, and three quarters of all municipalities will participate in the 2018 campaign. www.10000stappen.be In the French community, television and radio channels are required by law to provide free broadcasting time for the Government to deliver health promotion messages, of a duration equivalent to that for alcoholic beverages, medicines and medical treatment. Both public and private broadcasting organizations are covered by the legislation. Since 2005, five physical activity-related health promotion campaigns have been broadcast for free. Through cooperation between the ministries of Sports and Health Promotion, a new physical activity promotion campaign will benefit from this system in September 2018. Seven television channels and 12 radio stations will broadcast messages three times a day over three weeks, with at least one during daily prime time.

Croatia: Success story In order to halt the growing trend of morbidity and mortality rates of noncommunicable diseases, the Ministry of Health launched a public health programme "Healthy Living" in 2002. Since then, the Croatian Institute of Public Health in collaboration with nine ministries and other key governmental agencies and organizations has been developing a comprehensive, multidisciplinary health promotion programme "Healthy living", which the Government declared the first national health promotion programme in Croatia. Implementation of the programme is multisectoral, involving nongovernmental organizations, local communities, health, education and Government institutions. Starting in December 2016, the programme activities have been co-financed by the European Union from the European Social Fund. The goals of the programme are to inform, raise awareness and provide supporting environments to Croatian citizens of all ages as well as to vulnerable groups for adequate physical, mental and reproductive health in order to ensure healthier lifestyles for all. The “Healthy living" programme consists of five components: health education, health and physical activity, health and nutrition, health and the workplace and health and the environment. https://www.hzjz.hr/en/news/the-national-programme-living-healthy.

Denmark: Daily physical exercise was made a mandatory part of the school day in 2013. Students in public primary and secondary schools are now required to engage in 45 min of physical exercise every day to improve their learning, health and overall well-being. Activities are either integrated into learning structures or conducted during time specifically dedicated to exercise. The Ministry provides materials and invites professionals to take part in courses to ensure physical exercise in the classroom and assists schools and municipalities in designing systematic, structured plans. The main aim is to motivate students and provide a variety of opportunities to be active. https://uvm.dk/folkeskolen/laering-og-laeringsmiljoe/bevaegelse.

France: France has a programme called “Medicosportsanté”, in which each national sports federation dedicate one sports programme for participants with a chronic disease or the elderly. Each federation has created a commission that includes one general practitioner and a technical director, who provide guidance on adapting sports programmes for people with certain chronic diseases. The proposed programmes are then discussed by a committee made up of medical experts on the National Olympic Committee. The sports programmes will be announced on the Internet for both health professionals and the general population. Fifty national sport federations are involved in the programme. http://cnosf.franceolympique.com/cnosf/actus/7038-nouvelle-version-du-mdicosport-sant.html. http://inpes.santepubliquefrance.fr/icaps/default.asp.

Germany:  In 2016, the National Recommendations for Physical Activity and the Promotion of Physical Activity were published, which apply to all age groups as well as to adults with chronic diseases. They were initiated in 2014 within the context of an interdisciplinary working group at the Federal Ministry for Health for physical activity promotion in daily living. A broad alliance of stakeholders at national and federal state level supported potential implementation of the recommendations. The recommendations constitute a novelty at two levels: at national level, by providing the first evidence-based recommendations for Germany, with use of rigorous scientific methodology, and at an international level, by systematically linking recommendations for physical activity with the promotion of physical activity.

Ireland: “Go for Life” is the national programme for sports and physical activity for older people in Ireland. This “Age & Opportunity” initiative is funded by Sport Ireland and delivered nationally in partnership with local sports partnerships and the Health Service Executive health promotion units. The aim of Go for Life is to get “more older people more active more often”, and its objectives are closely aligned with those of Sport Ireland’s strategy, the National Physical Activity Plan (NPAP), the Positive Ageing Strategy and Healthy Ireland. Most Go for Life interventions are led by peers.

Malta: The Ministry for Education and Employment sponsors sports and physical activity programmes for children whose parents cannot afford to send them to classes. The process is simple and discrete, whereby the head of the school fills in a form that the parent can present instead of paying. For these courses, parents are also assisted in buying clothing, footwear and specific equipment, the cost of which might otherwise prevent participation. As the scheme is managed through schools, uptake and reach are high. https://education.gov.mt/en/education/student-services/Pages/default.aspx. SportsMalta is a centralised body  under the responsibility of the Parliamentary Secretary for Youths, Sports and Voluntary Organisations within the Ministry for Education and Employment. The key purpose of is to inspire Maltese and transform the nation through sport. Through innovative, fun and engaging experiences, their mission is to reach out and serve communities across the country with a mandate that goes beyond winning medals. The programmes are offered to participants aged from 6 months olds to adults. Over 30 types of sports are offered at different complexes for children aged 9 onwards. Sport Associations and Clubs partner with SportMalta in the provision of training for most of the sports. There are several programmes for different age groups and interests. The programmes are accredited by Sports Malta and Sports Governing bodies while free lance coaches and instructors are employed to deliver the programmes. Most of the instructors are students following sports programmes from vocational and academic backgrounds; as well as Physical Education Teachers. An apprenticeship system could be equivalent. Facilities are rented out from the public and private sector on an hourly basis. Participants book and pay for a series of sessions in advance. https://www.sportmalta.org.mt/programmes.

Netherlands: In the Netherlands, a set of 20 key indicators related to sport and physical activity are structurally monitored, irrespective of current policy programmes that may or may not include their own monitoring / evaluation plan. Dissemination of facts and figures on the key indicators of sport and physical activity is coordinated by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment. Facts and figures are communicated through a website: www.sportenbewegenincijfers.nl. The key indicators can be accessed directly at www.kernindicatorensportenbewegen.nl.

Poland: The “National Programme for Improvement of Safety and Working Conditions” is a 3-month health programme that promotes healthy lifestyles and physical activity in workers aged ≥ 50 years. The programme involves sports activities and training workshops, and employees take part in exercise sessions three times a week during working hours under the supervison of trained instructors. The programme has resulted in less musculoskeletal pain, more physical activity and improved anthropometrics among participants.

Portugal: Since 2012, the “National sports for all programme”, coordinated by the Portuguese Institute of Sports and Youth and with the participation of the sports sector and nongovernmental and private sector organizations, has promoted sports for the entire population and related national strategies. http://www.idesporto.pt.


  1. Should there be a national plan for sport and recreation? Why/why not?


29 January 2021