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Empowering Communities: Insights and Learnings from the National Opening Schools Facilities Conference

Empowering Communities: Insights and Learnings from the National Opening Schools Facilities Conference

On 15 May, London Sport joined nearly 40 other Active Partnerships, local schools, national governing bodies, and other key partners at the national Opening Schools Facilities (OSF) Conference in Leeds, which focused on highlighting learnings and looking at how the programme could be sustained longer-term. 

OSF is a national fund, provided by the Department for Education, designed to support schools to open their existing sport facilities to their pupils and the wider community outside of the school day. London Sport’s role has been to distribute funding to schools across London and support them in opening up their facilities. Since the most recent phase of OSF was launched (January 2023), London Sport has worked with over 180 schools and has distributed almost £3m. 

The event was hosted by the Active Partnerships National Organisation (APNO), alongside the Department for Education, StreetGames, ukactive and the Youth Sport Trust. London Sport’s Sophia Al Hussaini attended the conference and shared her experience of the day:  

“It was a day filled with invaluable insights, experiences and learning moments as we delved deeper into the multifaceted world of OSF. We had the pleasure of hearing from local schools in Leeds about how the OSF fund has enabled them to undertake meaningful projects that profoundly transformed the lives of their pupils and the surrounding community. 

The conference included a series of engaging workshops, each targeting a different aspect of how OSF is making a difference in our local communities. 

The first workshop I attended explored the intersections of OSF and Government funded programmes. We discussed how schools built connections, developed skills and knowledge, and opened their facilities to the wider community. One particular insight I took away was how schools have harnessed OSF to build connections with local grassroot clubs and coaches to provide pathways for participants beyond the fund. An example of this can be seen in our case study with Laurel Park School. We considered OSF and the connections between different programmes such as School Games, Creating Active Schools, and Holiday Activities & Food Programme.  

The second workshop I attended focused on empowering young people through the activation of the youth voice. This workshop highlighted the importance of involving students in decision-making processes, giving them a platform to express their ideas and concerns. Street Games presented their research from the voices of 1,000 young people and shared key data about their concerns, priorities, role models and inspirations, as well as looking at how young people spend their spare time and their sporting habits, motivations, barriers and associated emotions. From this, we can pull focus toward truly serving their needs and foster a sense of ownership and engagement among the youth.  
After the workshops, we broke into regional groups to reflect the day’s learnings and discuss the next steps. This regional collaboration allowed us to contextualise the information and strategise on how to implement the ideas in our respective areas. Sharing our unique challenges and solutions fostered a deeper understanding and reinforced the strength of our network. 

Overall, the OSF conference was an invigorating experience, reinforcing the power of collaboration and shared vision. I left the event with a renewed sense of purpose and a plethora of ideas to enhance our initiatives that make a significant impact in schools and communities across London. A huge thank you to the APNO and partners for organising the conference, and to all those that delivered insightful workshops and keynotes”.  

If you’d like to find out more about London Sport’s work on OSF, please visit our website page here where we’ve also got some inspiring case studies from schools that have benefited from the fund. Please note OSF funding is no longer open to new applications.  

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