Experts assess Covid’s effect on children’s sport

Data science specialists are supporting efforts to gauge how Covid-19 has impacted on young people’s involvement in sport and exercise.


They are part of a team tracking how participation rates among 5-18 year olds compare before, during and after the pandemic.

The University of Edinburgh experts hope to provide actionable insights for policy makers as they decide future funding priorities for children’s sport in Scotland.

Scotland currently lacks reliable data on recreational sport and exercise trends and the initiative is an attempt to address that knowledge gap.

Wide ranging

The team will map the range of activities that sports organisations, authorities and trusts offer to young people across Scotland.

Specialists from Edinburgh and Abertay University are collaborating with the Observatory for Sport in Scotland and the Mulier Institute in the Netherlands.

Online questionnaires will invite young people – with the consent of their parents or guardians – to share their experiences of taking part in sport.

Participants will also be asked to provide additional details on what sport and exercise activities might look like in an ideal world.

Young people will be encouraged to identify any barriers that might have stopped them from being active – and to share how the easing of Covid restrictions has impacted on their participation.

School visits

Researchers from Abertay University will be visiting schools across the country to carry out inclusive and interactive engagement sessions.

Children can choose to draw pictures or maps explaining their favorite activities, take part in sports challenges and talk directly to researchers about their participation levels.

As the responses are gathered in, staff from University of Edinburgh’s Data for Children Collaborative will assist efforts to identify the key emerging trends.

The Data for Children Collaborative is a specialist unit within the Edinburgh Futures Institute that seeks to use its expertise to improve outcomes for every child.

Patchy data

Lead researcher Paula Murray, of Abertay University, says Scotland has already suffered from holding patchy data on recreational sport and exercise participation prior to the pandemic.

“We must begin to collect strong and reliable datasets in this area if we are to make informed choices about where the country’s limited budget resources should be directed,” says Dr Murray.

Fraser Macdonald, Deputy Director of the Data for Children Collaborative, says the project’s strength is combining national-level data with real-life experiences.

“We want to build a 360-degree view of how young people, families and organisations have been impacted and we’re looking forward to improving outcomes across Scotland.” says Mr Macdonald.

Related links

Project page

More about the Young People Survey

Parents and Guardians Survey