The FAST programme – Families Active, Sporting Together – is a ground-breaking initiative to encourage children, parents and others to enjoy sports as a family and become more physically active. Led by Cherwell District Council and funded by Sport England, FAST builds on evidence that parents are influential role models for children and can lead by example. The programme was implemented in response to recent data collected through the Active Lives report which shows that activity levels in Cherwell are below the national average, with only 57.8% of the population classified as ‘active’. Through FAST, run in partnership with the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare, the council is addressing this issue.
The programme was initially rolled out in 2018 in Banbury offering energizing low-price activities for local residents. But given its success, in January 2020, Cherwell District Council- with additional support from Sport England- officially rolled out FAST 2 in Bicester and Kidlington toward expanding the programme’s amazing offers to families in other areas of the district.
A range of attractive offers has been created for families, including swimming, football sessions, sports programmes in local parks, gym sessions, tennis, bowling, climbing, dancing and much more. Through the programme a family of two adults and three children pay £3 for a swim – an outing that would normally cost them £13. Gym activities at a participating centre are available for £2; bowling is £3 a game instead of £12.30, table tennis £1.50 instead of £6.80, 15% off Clip and Climb and much more.
Families joining the scheme access leisure facilities with a ‘FAST’ membership card. Designed for easy use, the card also aids the collection of monitoring data. This has helped to identify which groups are taking part, and which have yet to be reached. In support of the project the council has contacted health workers, social workers, community groups and the local mosque, who have all agreed to help promote the activities. Local GPs are also being encouraged to prescribe the FAST project to patients who would benefit. Schools are a key focus of the programme, with several hosting free after-school sports sessions for whole families. Events are designed as drop-in sessions that are fun and accessible to all, with the idea that the physical intensity of activities will increase as the course progresses. So far, the programme has offered 168 fun Youth Activator led sessions at schools in Banbury, Bicester and Kidlington.
Up to date, 2,493 individuals (707 families) have signed up for FAST 1 while 851 individuals (262 families) have attended one of the 455 sessions offered in Banbury. Monitoring of the programme also shows between Summer 2018 and Spring 2020, there have been 2,619 attendances to family swimming sessions at Spiceball Leisure Centre, Woodgreen Leisure Centre and Sibford School; 409 attendances at Woodgreen Leisure Centre gym sessions and 266 attendances at spinning classes, among other activities.
Since its recent launch, FAST 2 has been well received in Bicester and Kidlington with an impressive 3,070 individuals (841 families) signing up for the programme within the first three months. Prior to the coronavirus lockdown, 689 individuals (219 families) had taken part in at least one of the 258 sessions offered so far in Bicester and Kidlington. The programme also saw 214 attendances at family swimming sessions at Bicester Leisure Centre and Kidlington & Gosford Leisure Centre; 175 attendances at Clip and Climb sessions and 74 attendances in boxing sessions, among other activities.
A recent consultation we’ve carried out with FAST participants showed that the sessions offered by the programme have helped families create positive attitudes toward physical activity and exercise whilst also increasing their activity levels, as described by these programme participants:
“It works really well with the adults and kids, the games and everything we did was sort of simple enough for the kids to understand and also there was enough variety to make it really interesting. My son absolutely loved it and looked forward to it every week. For me too, sort of taking me back to those games you played, childhood games, good getting into things like that.” - Parent
“My little girl, she is only 4 but she enjoys exercising a lot more now where she didn’t really before. She sees it more like playing. Harry and Hayley (Youth Activators) they made it fun. I think she sees it more as a positive rather than working out.” - Parent
The Centre for Sustainable Healthcare is excited to continue to collaborate with Cherwell District Council in the FAST programme as we work to encourage families to be healthy and active together.