Schools are to receive Government money to keep sports halls and playing fields open during the holidays to fight child obesity.
The Department for Education is giving £2.4 million as part of a national drive to encourage youngsters to do 60 minutes of physical activity per day.
It comes amid growing concern about the lack of interest in exercise among young people. Obesity among 10 year-olds has reached a record high, with the percentage who are severely obese rising by more than a third in 12 years.
The figures last year showed that 4.4 per cent of children leaving primary school are severely obese, up from 3.2 per cent in 2006/7.
Mr Williamson said: “Getting children active from a young age helps them build confidence and learn skills they will use in later life.
“Many schools already open up their facilities so their communities can benefit and I want to encourage even more to do so.”
Research has shown that today’s children are far less active during summer holidays than term-time, with fitness gains achieved during the school year wiped out in just six weeks.
But progress was reversed during lazy summer holidays, in which PE lessons and walks to school were replaced with long days hunched over gadgets. The study – the first of its kind to measure fitness levels before and after the summer holidays – showed that left to their own devices, children are slumping into inactivity.
It includes £500,000 fund for schools to test out new ways to engage the least active pupils and help to develop the skills and confidence of PE teachers.
The remaining £1.6 million will be spent on encouraging schools to keep their sports facilities open outside of the school day. Ministers said that schools which lease their sports facilities to be used by sports and activity clubs on evenings, weekends and during holidays will be able to generate additional income.
Mike Diaper, a director at Sport England, said: “A significant amount of community sports facilities are found in schools. “This new funding will help support schools to open up their facilities beyond the school day so they can be used for as long as possible by young people and the wider community and link schools up with great local activities.”
In November, a coalition of more than 40 leaders from across British wrote to the main political parties to request a public commitment to tackle the “alarming public health emergency” of inactivity among young people.
The letter was signed by the chief executives of major sports governing bodies and charities, including the Football Association, the English Cricket Board, England Athletics, the Lawn Tennis Association and the Youth Sports Trust.
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