Resetting the relationship between local and national government. Read our Local Government White Paper

Families Active Sporting Together (FAST)

The FAST programme is funded by, and working in partnership with, Sport England. It was launched in 2018 and initially based in the targeted wards of Bicester and Kidlington with the aim to make it easier for families to access and enjoy physical activity and sport together.

View allChildren and young people articles


The FAST programme is funded by, and working in partnership with, Sport England. It was launched in 2018 and initially based in the targeted wards of Bicester and Kidlington with the aim to make it easier for families to access and enjoy physical activity and sport together.

Working with local schools, it is delivered in 12 week blocks by trained Youth Activators who create a friendly environment in which parents and children of all ages can come together and enjoy moving. Following the programme families are given discounted access to local leisure services.

The challenge

With the many challenges present in daily life in England currently, families are being affected by post Covid concerns coupled with the cost of living crisis which threaten our physical and mental health and wellbeing. Being able to get active in a way that works for them can help families to enjoy quality time together, have fun and improve their health and wellbeing too.

Cherwell District Council are committed to driving down inactivity and targeting the right areas in terms of inequalities and underrepresented groups who are often those most at risk of health conditions affecting both physical and mental health. 

For Sport England this was an area they hadn’t worked on before, and also fitted well with the council’s commitment to drive down inactivity. An initial £215,000 was secured for Banbury from the Sport England Families Fund followed by an additional £375,000 for two other areas of the district, Bicester and Kidlington. 

The solution

The FAST programme was created in 2018. The programme has two main elements, the initial engagement with families over a 12 week period supported by Activators and then the follow up work to encourage families to continue their activities afterwards.

In designing the programme the council explored how it would work best, considering the sign up, referrals, involvement of children’s services and the housing association, incentives as well as tracking information on activity levels. 

The activities element includes games and sports that families may not have tried before, with the emphasis on fun and inclusivity for the whole family. 

The scheme has prioritised working with communities and targeting the most deprived wards, and the council works closely with the local housing association, children’s centres and local mosques which refer on the families they work with, in order to successfully engage families from all backgrounds. In addition, in partnership with the local Mosque, FAST has delivered female-only private swimming sessions for mothers and children, equipped with female lifeguards and privacy screens. The FAST programme also provides mosque families with access to Les Mills gym sessions, cricket, boxing, football, fencing, archery and more in their community. 

Families on the programme received a FAST card which gave them access to discounted sessions at partner leisure centres and clubs. This gives a swimming session for £3 rather than £13, boxing £1 instead of £5 and table tennis £1.50 as opposed to £6.80. These discounts help to remove any financial barriers to accessing activities at leisure centres and clubs. While FAST Card Funding for Banbury, Bicester and Kidlington ended on 31 December 2022 the scheme has been replaced by a new scheme called You Move which provides free or low cost activities for families in Cherwell. 

FAST also developed an Activity Hub that gave families a place to find information and videos from the Activators on how to keep active, and families can also loan equipment to stay active at home. An app, Street Tag, was launched before the pandemic and proved to be popular, allowing users to track how much walking, cycling and running they were doing against others in their local areas. 

The impact

FAST is seen to be having a real positive impact on physical and mental wellbeing. The evaluation of FAST is quite thorough and this was one of the conditions of Sport England funding in order to show the impact.

The council use the Substance portal to collect the numbers and this has been developed further through focus groups and deeper dives into the community to ascertain what they want and need. 

A story map has also been developed which is an effective visual too to show where participating families are coming from.  

The headline figures include:

  • Over 7,000 individuals from 2,000 families have taken part in the FAST programme to date.
  • Twenty-eight per cent of participants on the FAST live in the 30 per cent most deprived wards of Cherwell.
  • The programme is highly targeted and is reaching those families that need a bit more support to become and sustain being active.
  • Prior to starting FAST only 15 per cent of families reported being active together five or more times a month, compared to 52 per cent of families afterwards. 
  • Fourteen per cent of participants are from an ethnically diverse background, higher than the seven per cent across Cherwell who are ethnically diverse. This emphasises the impact FAST is having on communities across Cherwell.
  • Eighteen per cent of participants on the FAST programme have reported a physical or mental health condition.
  • FAST adapted what was available, and has been able to offer mental health support alongside other services.
  • Feedback from families has demonstrated how the programme has been transformational in creating better habits regarding physical activity.
  • An increase in the percentage of children doing at least 60 minutes physical activity a week from 54 per cent to 67 per cent and for adults an increase of those doing 150 minutes a week from 35 per cent to 67 per cent.

How is the new approach being sustained?

The success of the FAST programme has led to the work being upscaled, and Oxfordshire County Council’s Public Health team is now funding a countywide programme called YouMove which began in May 2022. It is co-ordinated by the Active Partnership (Active Oxfordshire) in partnership with district councils.

YouMove has taken all the learning and best bits from FAST and focused on free school meals to target the children that need it the most. It is set to make a significant difference to the health and wellbeing of children and families in greatest need in Oxfordshire.

Families with children on free school meals can access a wide range of low cost and free activities, including swimming, badminton 

As with FAST, families are supported by local Activators in each district who provide advice, support and guidance about what is on offer.

Lessons learned

  • Feedback from families has helped CDC understand how transformational FAST has been in the creation of better physical activity habits.
  • Making it as easy as possible for people to sign up and get involved has made a huge difference – preferably online as opposed to paper-based.
  • Having the right people to deliver the sessions at the right time providing activities that are accessible and at the heart of the community works best.
  • Do not attempt to do everything for everyone – having a programme that caters for everyone is not going to work. 


Tom Gubbins, Sport and Physical Activity Manager

[email protected]

Further resources

An Introduction to FAST

FAST Lockdown Report