More college students in England are participating in sport than ever before, according to research from the Association of Colleges.
The results, from the annual College Sport Survey, show that 20 per cent of all students are regularly taking part in sport or physical activity at college. This is up from 15 per cent in 2013.
However, the percentage of female students taking part in sport has fallen slightly, from 31 per cent to 30 per cent.
The number of young people participating in sport drops significantly once they leave formal education, but concerted efforts have been made through bodies such as Sport England to boost the take up.
The survey also found that on average, colleges now offer an average of 20 sports, up from 17 in 2013.
They also provide an average of 55 different types of clubs, sessions, teams and events, up from 42 last year and 38 in 2012.
However, sixth form colleges provide even more – an average of 62 different types of session per college.
Some 84 per cent of colleges have a sports hall, and almost 9 out of 10 of these are available for community use.
Despite this, large facility gaps remain, and 100 colleges have identified a need for facilities.
Richard Atkins, chair of AoC Sport, said: “Increasing participation in sport and physical activity is one of our priorities. Not only does it benefit individuals’ health and well-being, it can also help develop the wider employability skills such as teamwork and building confidence.
“It is excellent news that participation levels are on the up. But we realise there is still more that needs to be done. In the last year, the number of females taking part in sport and physical activity has fallen.
“While this is only a slight drop, we want to make sure college sport is accessible to everyone at all levels – whether it is taking part in a weekly Zumba class, or being part of the college basketball team.”
Over the last two years, a number of colleges have benefited from Sport England funding, which introduced a new scheme called College Sport Makers, individuals who are responsible for looking at different ways to get students involved in sport and physical activity.
Mr Atkins said the scheme has been a “huge success”.
Sport England’s Active Colleges research found that around a quarter of students say that a college’s sport offer is a key factor in applying to a college, with over a half stating that being involved in college sport means they attend college more than they would do otherwise .
Katie Mitchell, head of FE at Sport England, said: “Sport in colleges is on the up, and these findings begin to demonstrate the impact that Sport England’s Active Colleges investment, supported by AoC Sport, is making. Although there is still a lot of work to do, we look forward to working with AoC Sport to increase participation and engagement, and ensure that all college students have the opportunity to take part in sport.”
AoC Sport, which was formed following the merger of British Colleges Sport and the Association of Colleges sport policy team, is the lead membership organisation for college sport.
Last week Marcus Kingwell, formerly of London Sport, was appointed as its managing director.
Mr Kingwell has 15 years of senior experience in sport, leisure, health and wellbeing, and during his time at London Sport led the creation of a new, city-wide organisation for community sports development.