ukactive and Nike launch third Open Doors programme to unlock school sports facilities

ukactive and Nike have today (20 July) announced the launch of the third annual Open Doors programme, helping more children and young people to enjoy an active summer.

In March, following two years of Open Doors delivery and campaigning by ukactive and its partners, the Government announced £53m in funding for Active Partnerships to open more school facilities across England.

Following this success, Open Doors 2023 will have an added focus on girls’ participation and working with them to create the right opportunities and activities to reduce the gender gap.

Research shows that from the age of five, boys are more active than girls at every age – with girls from underserved communities even more adversely affected.

This year the Open Doors programme will be hosted at primary schools in three London boroughs – Fleecefield Primary School in Enfield, New City School in Newham, and Berger Primary School in Hackney – and at Reach Academy, a secondary school in Feltham.

ukactive’s Open Doors model was designed with Nike to help unlock school sports facilities and enable children and young people to access the benefits of physical exercise – particularly for those from low-income households.
Open Doors removes the barrier of high expense summer holiday provision for families, and this year will see sport and activities delivered by partners including Team Get Involved, Effective Transitions, JUMPLDN, and local providers delivering activities such as yoga, hula hooping, dance, and judo.

The model forms part of ukactive’s Schools as Community Hubs policy, calling on the Government to help unlock our school playing fields, halls, and courts, which make up 39% of community sport facilities in England but are usually closed or inaccessible during the holidays.

Nike athlete and Iron Man, John McAvoy, is the Open Doors Ambassador and the programme is also backed by charities, sports clubs, and other elite athletes, including Paralympic champion Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and former England Rugby captain Lawrence Dallaglio.

Research by ukactive’s Research Institute shows that children and young people suffer a loss in cardiorespiratory fitness levels over the summer holidays of up to 74% – with those from lower socio-economic groups suffering a drop in fitness around 18 times faster than their more affluent peers.

Researchers evaluating the Open Doors programme in previous years found that it had a positive impact on activity levels and the wellbeing of young people:

• 63% of participants said they were looking forward to going back to school after the summer holidays (Open Doors 2021)
• 90% of children and young people said they made new friends on the Open Doors programme (2021)

Last year, children and young people told researchers they enjoyed participating in Open Doors because it provided social interaction and reduced boredom by breaking up a typically sedentary, isolated summer holiday routine.

They also reported that it has exposed them to new experiences through new activities they might not have otherwise got to try.

John McAvoy, Nike athlete and Iron Man, said: “I am so excited and proud to see Open Doors continue to change young people’s lives as we kick-off the third year of the programme.

“We know this model can be especially powerful at reaching those with fewer opportunities to be active, including girls and children from less affluent backgrounds and communities.

“We are more determined than ever to improve the outlook for all children and young people who just need the chance to be active and try something new together this summer.”

Huw Edwards, CEO of ukactive, said: “While we have seen children’s activity levels overall bounce back to pre-pandemic levels, we cannot accept the persistent gap that means girls and children and young people from less affluent backgrounds are less active.

“This summer’s Open Doors programme will show the incredible impact we can make on children’s health and happiness by simply working together to open more school sport facilities during the holidays.

“ukactive is proud to work with Nike in driving the case for opening school sport facilities so we can ensure every child and young person has the chance to experience an active, fun and social summer.”

Dan Burrows, Nike’s Senior Director of Social and Community Impact, EMEA, said: “In partnership with ukactive, we are delighted to announce the launch of the Open Doors programme in 2023.

“We are extremely proud of the impact the programme has achieved in providing young people from some of our most marginalised communities access to free, and safe sports facilities in which to play.

“At Nike, we are committed to increasing gender equity in sport and this year we are pleased to announce that the programme will have a focus on empowering girls and closing the gender gap on sports participation. We recognise how important it is for girls to have welcoming, safe, and fun spaces to be active.”

ukactive has produced an Open Doors Blueprint to help schools, local authorities, activity providers and others to host successful programmes – download it here.

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