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18th June 2024

New research will shape strategy for children’s sport in Scotland

Avoiding a ‘lost generation’ of children participating in sport and physical activity. 

New research and guidance have been published today on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the participation of children in sport.  

Urban Foresight led the data analysis and policy development for this collaborative research project by the Data for Children Collaborative.  

The project spanned two years and used a mixed-methods research approach to create a robust, evidence-based set of recommendations for children’s sports strategy in Scotland.  

Pressure on local authority funding, reduced staffing and volunteering, and widespread closures all hindered children’s activity during the pandemic.  

The quantitative and qualitative evidence collected suggests that some effects of COVID-19 risk becoming permanent.  

The report calls for a future strategy for children’s sport in Scotland. We recommended that this be focused on four themes: 

1/ Improve data

There are significant gaps in our ability to understand children’s sport in Scotland. A future strategy should bring Scotland in line with the latest data-driven approaches taken in other countries.

2/ Avoid a ‘lost generation’ of children who experienced the pandemic

Policy and operational attention should focus on increasing opportunities for the generation who experienced the pandemic as they grow up.

3/ Restore access to pre-pandemic levels.

Many facilities have yet to reopen after the pandemic. The report also suggests new ways to increase participation.

4/ Fix the long-term foundations for children’s sports

COVID-19 exacerbated many long-term challenges, particularly around funding and staffing for sport.  


This project combined Urban Foresight’s experience working on places, physical activity and innovation.  

Gordon Hector, Head of Policy and Strategy at Urban Foresight commented, “Sport is truly a place-based activity.  It’s important to think about how particular locations and local conditions change access and uptake. This report provides new qualitative research on how children experience sport. It also shares new data analysis on the post-pandemic picture. It offers a clear sense of what’s happened to children’s sport and what policymakers can do to respond.” 

To learn more about our work on this project please contact, Head of Policy and Strategy Gordon Hector   

To learn more about our work in health, social care and physical activity, please visit the Health and Social Care section of our website.  

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