Adventure into Sport is a Play England project which used play as a springboard into sport and active lifestyles for children and their parents. The project was funded by Sport England and the National Lottery.

At the moment, too many children are leading inactive lives. According to Public Health England, in 2014/15 a third of 10- to 11-year olds and over a fifth of four to five-year olds were overweight or obese.

Many children are growing up in over-crowded housing without access to quality play and sports opportunities outside school.

Play England worked with project partners Eccleshill Adventure Playground in Ravenscliffe, Bradford and Play Association Tower Hamlets with Mudchute Farm on the Isle of Dogs as well as regional sports providers, London Sport and Yorkshire Sport.

Adventure into Sport offered free after-school and summer holiday play opportunities to help hard-to-reach children and their families develop a positive and sustained relationship with sport and physical activity.

Both Bradford and Tower Hamlets have high levels of social deprivation. In Ravenscliffe, 44% of children are growing up in poverty.  89.2% of children in Eccleshill are in the bottom 20% of the Child Wellbeing index. In the Isle of Dogs, prevalence of childhood obesity in Year 6 children (children aged 10-11) is 27.1%, well above the national average of 19.1%. At 44%, Tower Hamlets also has the highest proportion of children growing up in poverty of any local authority area in the UK.


Independent Evaluation of Adventure into Sport

The Centre for Research on Play in Education, Development & Learning (PEDAL), the University of Cambridge evaluated the impact of the project.

“I was jumping off the jumping tower I tried doing a front flip and I did a front flip off the second to lowest stage and then I tried it on the highest and then I did it. My dad brought me and he were like, ‘come on … you can do it!’ And then I finally did it!”

According to evaluation, “[t]he programme … has positive influences on young people’s attitudes towards physical activity and its physical, social and emotional benefits. A number of factors have contributed to its success, including the provision of free sessions, the inclusion of a variety of activities, the skill and experience of playworkers in facilitating engagement at each child’s own pace, and the building of positive relationships between the children and young people, as well as between the children and young people and staff.” (page 9, PEDAL Adventure into Sport Evaluation Report).

The project has been successful in demonstrating that child-led play with trained, experienced play workers helps hard-to-reach children and their families engage in — and feel more positive about — physical activity.  The interviews and research carried out by PEDAL give us very valuable insights into how this approach engaged children and helped them find ways to enjoy physical activity through play.  In particular, the importance of giving children free choice and of creating flexible, creative, non-structured environments for active play. They also show the increased confidence children and young people feel about participating in sport and ‘a growing sense of capability and personal achievement’ as a result of engaging in physical activity through the Adventure into Sport project.

The evaluation also noted “[i]nterviewees mentioned cost as a significant barrier to participation in physically active or sports activities in the Adventure into Sport areas. The provision of the programme for free undoubtedly enabled the most economically disadvantaged young people to attend.” (page 34 PEDAL report). The report also recommended that “building these foundations of confidence and intrinsic motivation to engage in sports and physical activity is an essential step in encouraging sustained changes in attitude towards sports and PA [physical activity].” (page 35 PEDAL report).

To read the Evaluation report in full click here.