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Interim report highlights Levelling the Playing Field project’s success

Levelling the Playing Field is a ground-breaking £1.7m national project managed by the Alliance of Sport and Youth Justice Board. The project has two common goals: 

  • Increase the number of ethnically diverse children taking part in sport and physical activity 
  • Prevent and divert ethnically diverse children from becoming involved in the Criminal Justice System 

Since its inception in February 2020, the project has engaged nearly 100 partners working together to achieve these common goals in its delivery areas of London, the West Midlands, South Yorkshire, Gwent and in several establishments in the Youth Secure Estate. 

Levelling the Playing Field’s many successes so far are outlined in today’s publication of its Interim Report compiled by the University of Birmingham, who are externally evaluating the project. 

One of its most positive impacts is how the project has helped break down barriers for workers from statutory bodies to speak with young people and has allowed them to be seen as supportive and trusted figures, instilling a sense of belonging. 

Levelling the Playing Field’s community sport sessions have become safe spaces for children and young people to form positive relationships with trusted adults. The sessions empower participants to be their own agents of change, allowing them to reach out for support in a setting they have chosen to attend, rather than being forced to engage in interventions with statutory services only after a concern, incident or offence has occurred. 

One such local multi-agency partnership, formed through Levelling the Playing Field, is in Newport, Gwent. Their approach is best summarised as, “connection before correction”. Read about it here

Inside the secure estate, the project is facilitating positive conversations and strengthening relationships between the secure estate and the community to give children better access to sport and physical activity opportunities in custody, on temporary release, and through the gate. 

Elsewhere, Levelling the Playing Field supported its network of partners through the pandemic in a number of ways, including procuring £157,152 of support funding for them from Sport England’s Tackling Inequalities Funding and Together Fund. 

The project also provided training for its specialist delivery partners in many different areas, from Compassion Integrity Training, mentoring, mental health and leadership to a pilot Empowering Coaching programme to maximise children’s engagement in sessions. We also produced a Learning and Development Framework in partnership with the Welsh Government to offer a host of relevant online resources. 

Currently, the project has accumulated data from over 1,500 individual young people across 20 delivery partners, representing over 60 different categories for ethnicity (95% of which are from ethnic minorities). Monitoring data is a crucial way for delivery partners to demonstrate impact and secure additional funding. 

Staff across the network have engaged in meetings with senior officials across the YJB and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Sport and Physical Activity in the Criminal Justice System. This strong presence across the sport and justice sectors is a platform to promote Levelling the Playing Field and bring important issues (i.e. ethnically diverse children’s under-representation in sport and over-representation in the justice system) higher up the agenda of statutory organisations. 

At the end of its initial three-year period of funding from the London Marathon Charitable Trust next summer, Levelling the Playing Field will publish a full impact report of its work across its delivery areas in England and Wales. It is hoped this evidence of positive impact will lead to the project scaling up its impact and increasing support for specialist organisations and ethnically diverse children. 

Alliance of Sport Chief Executive, James Mapstone, said: “Huge thanks to Dr. Hannah Hammond for compiling this report which celebrates the success of the project so far and the hard work of everyone across our partner network. We now look forward to the remainder of our initial funding period and scaling up the project’s impact moving forward.”  

Read Levelling the Playing Field’s full Interim Progress Report, prepared by Dr. Hannah Hammond from the University of Birmingham, by clicking the link below.

Available Resource Downloads