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Leeds academics discuss ‘Right to be Active’ for care-experienced children


Academics from Leeds Beckett University and Loughborough University are gathering with key stakeholders at Leicester City Football Club to examine the findings of a two-year study focusing on sport and physical activity experiences of care-experienced youth in England.

children in care sport

The ‘Right to Be Active’ project, led by Dr Thomas Quarmby (Carnegie School of Sport, Leeds Beckett University) and Dr Rachel Sandford (School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, Loughborough University) has looked at how care-experienced young people are supported in taking part in sport and physical activity.

Funded by a British Academy small grant, the project ran from January 2016 to July 2018 and sought to shed light on the perspectives of this relatively ‘hidden group’ within sport/physical activity and physical education research.

This novel, first of its kind, study sought to identify key benefits and challenges of sport/physical activity participation for care-experienced youth, and highlight implications for future research, policy and practice.

It drew from online surveys and interviews with both the young people and the adults working with them (e.g. local authority staff, carers and educators). By adopting a participatory approach with the young people, the project team have been able to create concept cartoons and composite narratives as a means of sharing care-experienced youths’ stories and perspectives.

The findings show that the key benefits of taking part in sport and physical activity include fun/enjoyment and the development of skills and opportunities for social interaction.

Importantly, for practitioners and those who work with young people, there is need to provide opportunities through sport/physical activity for positive, sustained relationships.

In reality though, care-experienced youth’s experiences can be disconnected and disparate, with the findings highlighting the complex social realities of care-experienced youth that are heavily influenced by their ‘care status’.

More specifically, the challenges that care-experienced youth face include the shifting nature of the care context (for example, moving placements, changing schools and frequent short term activities).

Moreover, some of their engagements with sport/physical activity are often highly-structured (managed) due to issues of safeguarding, the arrangement of review meetings and various supervised activities that are shaped by policies at local and national levels.

These policies and practices were frequently reported to impact on engagement with sport/physical activity and even physical education in school (e.g. being removed from physical education to attend review meetings).

As well as looking at the key findings, the event on the 26 September also aims to raise awareness of the challenges these young people face and identify future directions with regard to research, policy and practice.

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