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The OSS has launched an ambitious year-long research project with the Data for Children Collaborative, UNICEF, Abertay University, Mulier Institute and private data companies to create a clear national picture of children’s sport activity levels from ages 5 to 18, and the trends before and after the Covid-19 pandemic.


CHALLENGE: Using data to understand Scotland’s children’s sport activity – mapping the systems for young people, the stakeholders in charge of planning, funding and running sport and physical activity, and identifying how Covid-19 impacted access to sport.


The Background

Recreational sport has long been understood as a crucial mechanism for improved health and wellbeing, as well as having positive impact on social cohesion, education, and the economy. However, little is understood of recreational sport accessibility, uptake, and impact for children and young people across Scotland. The COVID-19 pandemic and its unprecedented impact on society has further complicated our understanding in this field and increases the requirement for action. This project seeks to better understand the how Covid-19 has impacted access to sport for young people in Scotland from primary 1 upwards, to 18 years old. Through a unique collaboration, bringing together private sector and academic expertise, this project will take a bottom-up and top-down approach, mapping the complexity that exists, the data available, and the real-life experiences of young people and the sport organisations that have supported them.

The Project

The OSS approached and partnered with the Data for Children Collaborative (DCC) to create the above challenge question (see title) and through discussion identified the need for the project and developed the proposed implications and impacts to ensure the project would create change and effect. With the DCC, a team spanning private sector, academic expertise and charitable sectors were recruited and the multi-disciplinary team was built. This is a unique and important collaboration, bringing together charitable, private sector and academic expertise who are focused on addressing the challenge of understanding how and where COVID-19 has impacted children’s access to recreational sports across Scotland and who has been impacted. The team will develop innovative survey techniques for a range of youth groups. The process will ensure that real-life experiences are captured and considered in the analysis.

This will be combined with engagement and data collection across sports organisations, leisure trusts and local councils, with the aim being the addition of experiential data will enrich the analysis and ability to tell meaningful data stories and inform policy. This project will take a bottom-up and top-down approach, mapping the complexity that exists, the data available, and the real-life experiences of young people and the sports organisations that have supported them.

The primary objectives of the project are:

  1. Mapping the sports organisations, authorities and trusts that provide a recreational activity for young people across Scotland. Visualising the linkages and accountabilities and building an understanding of the data they currently collect and what is available to be explored.

  2. Building a data pipeline that enables clear and simple transfer of data to a central repository.

  3. Designing and completing quantitative data collection and analysis across young person sub-group and organisations providing recreational activity.

  4. Combining Quantitative and Qualitative analysis to explore the understanding of the landscape.

  5. Giving insight into the current landscape within Scotland through data stories and providing advice on solutions.

Using data-driven approaches, the team will gain a detailed understanding of the barriers to accessing recreational sports across Scotland and how this has changed through COVID-19. The project will look provide insight into the practical solutions to promote and increase participation, which will be used to inform, influence and support policy makers to make a difference to children’s lives in Scotland and additionally highlight the data gaps that exist and practical solutions to bridging these gaps.

Stakeholder Survey (Organisation & Data)

We are looking for all organisations that are involved in the planning, funding and/or delivery of sport and activity for children and young people (5-18-year-olds) in Scotland (and the UK if it has a Scottish element). If your organisation is involved in any aspect, please get in touch through the email below, and please complete the stakeholder survey here.


Frequently Asked Questions

How will you use our organisations data?

  • Your data will be analysed to gain an understanding of children’s access to sport and activity in Scotland and be used together with other organisations to show the landscape across Scotland. The data will be used to identify the crossover and gaps between organisations when looking at access, provision, funding and delivery for young people.

How will our data be stored?

  • Your data will be stored on a secure, encrypted database allowing only the research team access

Who will have access to our data?

  • Your data will only be accessible by members of the research team, and will not be shared out with anyone who is not involved in the research. Only approved members of the research team will have access to the data.

Will our data be anonymised?

  • We are not looking at individual children and young people’s data, and will be looking at all data on an organisational level. The data from your organisation will be analysed and discussed as overview of the landscape, but no specific data from your organisation will be identifiable.

How will our data be used in the long-term?

  • Your data will be analysed to identify the picture and landscape of children and young people’s sport and activity across Scotland. There is no central storage of children and young people’s data, and currently organisations record, report and store data differently, whilst a large amount of data is unused. During this research we will create a data pipeline and storage for organisations to submit and store data. We aim to show the Scottish Government that the creation of a central data store would significantly improve the picture of children’s sport and activity and allow for better accuracy in estimating the number of children and young people who are active and meeting health guidelines.

What are the expected outputs?

  • A short literature review, outlining previous work and research relating to understanding the impact Covid-19 has had on children’s sport activity in Scotland.
  • A detailed systems map, outlining the pre-existing structure of organisations (third & public) responsible for providing recreational activity to children across Scotland. The systems map will highlight accountability, interaction, and geographic reach.
  • A data catalogue, supporting the systems map to highlight the types of data currently held by organisations.
  • A data pipeline enabling the transfer of data from willing organisations into a central repository for cleaning and further analysis by the project team.
  • A report on pipeline methodology, providing advice and recommendations for sustained developed beyond the lifecycle of the project.
  • Qualitative report focused on the lived experiences of children and organisations during the Covid-19 pandemic period.
  • Policy Recommendation based on data stories, outlining the project findings, what we know about the impacts of Covid-19, what we don’t know, and why we don’t know it – including suggestions for improvements moving forward.

If you have any further questions, please contact OSS Research Manager, Ryan Brown at


The Research Team

Data For Children Collaborative

University of Abertay

Urban Foresight

Optima Connect

Mulier Institute

Information Answers