Sport Ireland, Sport Northern Ireland and Healthy Ireland (through the Healthy Ireland fund) have published the first all-island Children’s Sport Participation and Physical Activity (CSPPA 2018) study.
It provides rich insights into the experiences of children and adolescents throughout the island around their participation in physical activity, sport and physical education.
In the case of children from the Republic of Ireland it also includes comparisons with the results of the CSPPA 2010 study commissioned by Sport Ireland.
A report like this is crucial in developing a real as opposed to instinctive sense of what is happening on the ground and provides the evidence that is essential for making the right decisions around programmes, facilities, support for clubs and sporting bodies, and most importantly for promoting physical activity through schools.
There are many positives happening in the school space from inclusion on the exam curriculum through to the Daily Mile but boy are they needed.
If we had a sesne that things were pretty good in relation to our children’s activity, we may have been living in something of a bubble.
Only 17 percent of primary children in the Republic and 20 percent in the North get the reccomended level of 60 minutes of physical activity each day.
If that looks disappointing the numbers drop to only 10 and 11 per cent respectively at post Primary level.
We are not alone. The numbers are lower in New Zealand, but it is still a rude awakening.
There is a wealth of data in the report which must surely become a more regular feature.
54 per cent of urban based post primary children take part in some form of school physical activity versus 69 per cent in rural areas.
There is a far too big gradient between boys and girls at the same age with 70 per cent of boys and only 57 per cent of girls doing sport of any description.
Gaelic Football and Soccer are the two most popular sports followed by Hurling / Camogie, swimming, athletics, weight training and basketball. Rugby comes in at one quarter the figure for Gaelic Football with 8 per cent playing at Post primary level while Tennis, Volleyball, hocke and badminton are all a match for it among girls.
The report runs to more than 100 pages and will require detailed analysis to put it in the right context. Spoort for Business will look to do that in the coming weeks with a series of features on it.
In the Republic of Ireland, notable improvements were seen in active commuting (walking or cycling) to school since the previous study in 2010 although barriers exist here around the distance to travel to schools and the question of safety.
Compared to 2010, some improvements were recorded around the delivery of Physical Education although the report identifies that more needs to be done in this regard.
“We need to provide more support to parents, clubs and communities with the resources they need to ensure children have a broad range of opportunities to participate,” said Minister of State Brendan Griffin.
“A Sports Action Plan covering the period to end 2022 will be presented to Government by the end of this year which will contain a number of specific actions designed to address the significant challenges that this report is clearly outlining”.
“The promotion of physical activity for children, particularly in schools, is one of our main priorities in Healthy Ireland and a primary focus in the implementation of the National Physical Activity Plan,” added Minister for Children Catherine Byrne.
“The CSPPA study provides us with important data on how well our children and young people are doing in terms of their levels of physical activity, and where more support and intervention may be needed.”
Kieran Mulvey, Chairperson of Sport Ireland’s Board said: “CSPPA 2018 highlights the significant levels of sports participation among children and young people on the island and the contribution that such participation makes to their health, well-being and development. Sport Ireland is committed to working in partnership with key stakeholders under the National Sports Policy to ensure that the benefits from being active are available to all our children and young people.”
Antoinette McKeown, Chief Executive for Sport Northern Ireland said: “Sport NI welcomes the launch of the Children’s Sport Participation and Physical Activity Study (CSPPA 2018) as follow up to the original CSPPA Study (2010). I would like to express my thanks to the researchers involved on both sides of the border who have produced an invaluable look into children’s activity levels on the island of Ireland.
Notably, this is the first time that Northern Irish statistics have been included in the collection of data in the CSPPA reports- this provides an excellent base for future policy development and delivery.”
The study is expected to provide valuable baseline material against which future progress under policy developments under the National Sports Policy and National Physical Activity Plan can be assessed.
The study involved some 6,600 students from 115 schools across the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland along with school principals and teachers from many of these schools. The CSPPA 2018 research team comprised of researchers and students from University of Limerick, Dublin City University, University College Cork and Ulster University.

Image credit Ryan Byrne,