Last week, The Active Partnerships National Organisation, alongside our partners, staged an Opening School Facilities (OSF) conference at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in north London.
Claire Lee, APNO’s National Programme Lead for Opening School Facilities, blogs about the conference, the programme’s success so far, and looks ahead to the long-term sustainability of OSF.
Following on from the successful event we hosted at Villa Park earlier in the year, it was great to host another Opening School Facilities conference, this time in London.
Last week’s conference allowed us to bring together the key partners for the programme with StreetGames, ukactive and Youth Sport Trust, along with our funding partner, the Department for Education, all represented at the event.
The conference provided a timely opportunity for representatives from active partnerships across the country, who have been working on this programme for the last ten months, to gather together once more, share positive experiences and challenges, and to discuss the future of the programme.
We were also joined at the stadium by relevant suppliers and national governing bodies, including Swim England, the LTA and British Fencing, who created a market place area and provided delegates with lots of useful information and ideas.
The big focus for the day was the workshops and I’m hugely grateful to all of the organisations and facilitators who helped to make them so successful. We had a strong focus on evaluation and sharing learnings from the work so far and also on the long-term sustainability of OSF, an important subject given that we are already halfway through our second year of the programme.
The team from ukactive, along with Annabel Litchfield from the Somerset Activity and Sports Partnership (SASP), facilitated some great discussions focused on monitoring, evaluation and learning and they helped delegates take a deeper dive into what’s been happening in different areas across the country. They encouraged everyone to share their experiences of what’s been working well, alongside providing a valuable opportunity to reflect on key learnings.
There were lots of great stories shared and it became clear that there are undoubtedly similarities across the regions. These particular workshops really gave delegates a chance to hear other people’s experiences of the programme and provided them with some fresh ideas that they can now take away and try in their own area too.
Gethin Thomas, a consultant and lecturer at Bangor University, delivered an excellent workshop on physical literacy, a hot topic given Sport England’s recent unveiling of the new consensus statement. Gethin provided some knowledgeable insight into what physical literacy is, its practical application, and why it is important in the context of the OSF programme.
Representatives from the Herts Sport and Physical Activity Partnership also provided a great case study, revealing how the programme has worked in their area of the country. They openly talked about the challenges that they faced as they sought to ensure that the programme reached those schools who would benefit most from the funding, even if it was more difficult to engage with them.
Many people also commented on how useful they found the session on effectively engaging with Multi Academy Trusts, which was hosted by Ruth Mann from Youth Sport Trust, as this is a challenge which lots of our local active partnerships have recently been facing.
Sustainability was definitely the word of the day and it was a topic that we unashamedly focused on during the conference. We are acutely aware that the months are flying by, so we wanted to make sure we turned the spotlight onto long-term legacy and we felt it was really important that delegates had an opportunity to provide input on what practical steps we can potentially take to help schools create long-term impact.
Active Devon kicked off that conversation in the morning in the workshop that they hosted, providing delegates with a great opportunity to share their thoughts. Activity Alliance then provided some additional support for this topic in an afternoon session and also shared an excellent case study from the Get Out Get Active programme, to illustrate how it’s possible to maintain engagement with the least active members of a community.
During the conference it was also great to hear directly from one of the schools that has been involved in the OSF programme and listening to James Watson, PE Lead from Heathfield Junior School, helped remind us of what this programme is all about – supporting schools to open up their facilities outside of the normal school day, to help school and community users to increase their physical activity levels.
There were so many positive aspects to last Tuesday’s event and there was such a great energy, which reflected the passion that we have seen across the network for this programme.
As a consortium, we are hugely proud of what has been achieved so far by the partners and the active partnerships network, and I hope that coming together face to face has helped to renew everyone’s determination to ensure the long-term future of this hugely successful programme.