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Our response to Active Lives Children and Young People Survey 2022-23

Today, Sport England released the latest data from the Active Lives Children and Young People Survey for the academic year 2022-23. Over 120,000 pupils in Years 1-11 (aged 5-16) and parents took part. Activity Alliance’s research team has analysed the dataset to highlight the differences for disabled children and young people.

Boy in powerchair with football in hand laughing with girl stood next to him smiling.

This year, while activity levels for disabled children have slightly increased compared to last year, inactivity levels are not changing. Nearly a third (29.0%) of disabled children who took part in the survey are doing less than 30 minutes of physical activity each day. We support Sport England’s collective action to work collaboratively as a sector to improve access to, and the experience of, sport and physical activity for all children and young people.

This year of data is the first full year where schools were not significantly disrupted due to COVID-19 and continued variants. However, this period was influenced by the ongoing cost-of-living crisis. The cost-of-living crisis is widening pre-existing inequalities and negatively impacting access to sport and physical activity.

Responding to the findings Adam Blaze, CEO of Activity Alliance said:

“The physical and mental health benefits for children and young people being active cannot ever be overstated. Everyone’s life is enriched by sport and physical activity, and we know that can stay with someone for life.
“That’s why it is concerning to see levels of activity remaining at a similar level to previous years. The fact that almost a third of disabled children and young people are classed as inactive shows the amount of work that still needs to be done. That’s one in three disabled children missing out on the benefits of an active lifestyle.
“As the leading voice for all disabled people in sport and activity, we are aware of the many challenges involved in overturning deep-rooted inequalities. We know the real-world barriers that disabled children and young people and their families face when even aspiring to be more active. And we continue to work tirelessly to support others to tackle these inequalities. A perfect example is how we showcase better practice through the Inclusive Education Hub and Inclusive PE Training Programme.
“Working collectively is going to be key to bring about real change. Our partnerships with Sport England and Youth Sport Trust especially, as well as our members, will be vital in ensuring that every child is given the opportunity to be active.”

Activity levels for disabled children

Although activity levels are shown to have slightly increased this year by more for disabled children compared to non-disabled children, inactivity levels remain unchanged. 29.0% of disabled children were ‘less active’ (doing less than 30 minutes of physical activity each day) this year, compared to 30.2% of non-disabled children.

This means that nearly a third of disabled children are missing out on the well-established benefits of being active.

Similar to last year and like non-disabled children, disabled children were most likely to be inactive in school Years 3-4 (ages 7-9).

Other inequalities

The data also shows where a child goes to school impacts their activity levels. 32.6% of children going to school in the most deprived places are inactive compared to 27.3% of children going to school in the least deprived places. From our ‘My Active Future’ report, we know that parents of disabled children in lower socioeconomic groups find it more difficult to get their children involved in sports and physical activity.

Other persistent inequalities from last year are girls, Black children, and children from less affluent families remain less active than their counterparts.

This shows the importance of continuing to consider social and demographic factors in addition to a child’s impairment or health condition.

Impairment differences

There are variations in activity levels depending on number and type of impairments of disabled children and young people. Just over half (52%) of disabled children with 3 or more impairments or long-term health condition are active. The data does not show a correlation between being less active and number of impairments. However, there are challenges with inclusive research for large-scale surveys and data is not included for children from Special Education Needs (SEN) schools.

Among disabled children and young people, there are variations in activity levels based on impairment types. For those who are active, those with breathing impairments (56.1%) are the most active, while the least active groups are children with impairments related to 'moving around' (47.5%) and 'speaking and communication' (47.5%). Among less active disabled children and young people, the highest least active groups are those with 'special needs' (34.2%) and 'moving around' impairments (32.9%), while the lowest least active groups are children with 'breathing' impairments (23.3%) and those with long-term health conditions (26.7%).

Please contact the National Disability Sports Organisations for support on engaging with children with specific impairments.

Attitudes and wellbeing

Consistent with previous years, the survey shows disabled children are less likely to have positive attitudes about enjoyment, confidence, competence, understanding, and knowledge in sport and physical activity than non-disabled children. However, there have been significant increases this year in enjoyment, confidence, and competence of being active. More disabled children feel they have the opportunity to be physically active, but it’s still lower than non-disabled children (42.0% compared to 50.9%).

Disabled children continue to have lower mental wellbeing outcome scores than non-disabled children. The data shows disabled children’s happiness, life satisfaction, and worthwhileness have significantly improved since last year.

Loneliness levels for disabled children have still not recovered since the pandemic, where 24.2% of disabled children felt lonely ‘often or always’. Disabled children and young people are more than four times more likely to feel lonely ‘often or always’ compared to non-disabled children and young people (26.1% vs 6.1%).

Positively, loneliness levels for disabled children with 1 impairment have reduced this year (14.3% compared to 24.3% last year). However, worryingly, 1 in 3 children with 3 or more impairments often or always feel lonely. The survey also shows that less active children are most likely to feel lonely. Being active and taking part in inclusive activities is key in addressing loneliness by making new friends and engaging with others.

Types of activities

The most common types of activities for all children and young people are ‘sporting activities’ (80.2%), ‘active play and informal activities’ (61.9%) and ‘walking’ (61.4%). Although activity type data includes demographic details of age and gender, it does not include disability. It also doesn’t include any paralympic or disability-specific sports or exercise, such as goalball or boccia. The types of activities included at mainstream and special schools will vary and this data does not capture types of activities in special schools or paralympic or disability specific sports.

Attendance of sporting events has significantly increased this year compared to last year. Nearly 4 in 10 (37%) disabled children have attended at least 2 live sports events in the last 12 months.

About the survey

This report presents data from the Active Lives Children and Young People Survey for 2022-23. Data is presented for children and young people in school Years 1-11 (ages 5-16) in England. Data was collected from over 120,000 children from over 1,600 schools via an online survey.

Data is compared with the academic year 2021-22, which contained disruption in self-isolation and sickness absences due to the rise of the Omicron variant in December 2021.

Data is presented for children and young people from mainstream schools only. Data is not collected from children and young people from special educational needs (SEN) schools or children. While the majority of those with a disability or long-term health condition attend mainstream schools, children and young people with the most complex aren’t represented within the report or data, this may also be the case for some individuals within mainstream schools. We are keen to work with Sport England and other key stakeholders to address this.


We continue to support organisations and people who deliver activities to support disabled children to be active.

Here are some useful resources:

More research or insight

Please get in touch with the research team at Activity Alliance to discuss the findings: