A controversial new lockdown rule banning after-school sports clubs unless they were for childcare has been ditched, the government has confirmed to a sports charity, marking a climbdown on official guidance.
The government sparked confusion and criticism with its new national lockdown guidance last week, which said schools could only continue to run after-school sports activities in order to “support parents to work…and for the purposes of respite care for vulnerable children”.
All out of school activities “not being primarily used by parents for these purposes should close”, the guidance added.
Following the outcry, schools minister Nick Gibb tweeted on Saturday “schools can and should continue offering sports clubs and activities”. He linked to a blog that repeated the DfE guidance, leading to accusations schools were being “gaslighted”.
Now the government has seemingly U-turned, with after-school sports activities allowed as long as they meet Covid protocols, such as bubbles, and are risk assessed.
The Youth Sports Trust, one of several sports charities that sought clarification from the government, said this interpretation of the guidance had been “approved” by both the Department for Education and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, which have been approached for comment.
Following consultation with the government, YST is now advising that schools “should continue to provide extra-curricular sport as long as they can do so in a way which i) maintains the integrity of schools’ COVID 19 protocols such as their approach to bubbles, staffing and social distancing and ii) is subject to appropriate risk assessment.
“Where the guidance refers to supporting parents to work, there is no additional need for schools to prove that extra-curricular clubs are helping parents to work or seek work.”
However, after-school clubs that bring together “groups of young people who would not otherwise be spending time together” should not take place.
“Competition between different schools should not take place, in line with the wider restrictions on grassroots sport,” the YST added in a statement issued this morning.
YST came together with Sport and Recreation Alliance, ukactive and Association for Physical Education in an attempt to clarify the guidance. It’s not yet clear whether the official guidance will be updated to reflect the new stance.