What a term for our School Games Organisers in England!

Posted 30th January 2024

Head of Sport Vicci Wells summarises an action-packed autumn term across the School Games Organiser network, celebrating the impact achieved, and highlights the key challenges in reaching the young people who are in most need of support.

In the autumn term 2023/24, the School Games Organiser network delivered an incredible 721,000 opportunities to participate [1] in school sport for young people across England. This works out on average as 9,613 participation opportunities for children and young people per day of the autumn term [2].

Increasingly this locally embedded network is being more targeted with their work, focussing on those young people who evidence shows have the lowest levels of engagement with physical activity. Across the autumn term, 29% of participants were young people from ethnically diverse communities and 14% had special educational needs or disabilities, a figure that has risen from the previous academic year.

In the world of education, we know there are significant concerns being raised to us all by schools about attendance, behaviour, and support for special educational needs (SEND), prompting educators and school/trust leaders to seek innovative solutions.

Despite the concerted efforts of schools and increased focus from government, attendance rates remain a pressing issue, with over a fifth of pupils missing more than one in 10 sessions last academic year. This crisis becomes even more alarming when considering the disproportionately high rates among those on free school meals, reaching over 35%. The persistent absence of learning for over 3,000 children daily demands a collective reflection on how the education sector can address this issue and includes looking beyond the sector itself.

One promising avenue that is being shared by this network is the role sport, physical activity and play can have in supporting young people in schools. Through the School Games, we witness first-hand the transformative impact of these activities on pupils. Schools are increasingly asking the crucial question: "What does it take for our most vulnerable young people to thrive at school?"

Through work being undertaken in engaging alternative provision settings in the School Games, I have encountered stories of young people who attribute their motivation to attend school to their participation in activities like basketball training or sport fixtures; or the sense of belonging they get when they play or take part in sport with their peers. I genuinely believe and am passionate about the fact that extra-curricular provision, for example- can make a significant contribution to how pupils feel in school- and how they feel about school. The School Games network, though not only the data highlighted this term but importantly the stories of impact that underpin it, are emphasising the pivotal role of sport, physical activity and play on a daily basis.

Not only this, reporting also shows that in the autumn term over 17,000 young leaders were trained in how to deliver inspiring, inclusive and accessible activities. Through young leaders we collectively recognise that not only can this increase workforce capacity, but it can also position peer to peer delivery effectively, which can increase engagement with physical activity.

As we continue into the academic year, we hope to draw out case study examples and Impact Awards showcasing how young leaders are being deployed and crucially, the difference they make in their schools and communities.

Thank you to all of the School Games Organiser network who updated their events calendar, development plans, and submitted Impact Awards and case studies which enable us to pull out these insights and we look forward to seeing the impact, achievements, and successes for young people to come!


  1. Because we don’t collect any identifiable data on the young people attending events we cannot say for certain that all participants are unique and there isn’t any duplication where one young person may attend several events, for this reason we talk about participation opportunities instead of participants
  2. 15 weeks of term x 5 days = 75 days, 721,000/75 = 9,613

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