Leadership Essentials for Councillors: Sport and Physical Activity

Online programme 13 July to 30 July 2021 (six sessions)


The pandemic has reminded us all of how important being active is to our mental and physical wellbeing. But it has also challenged us to think hard about how we support our communities to be active during a period when core facilities were closed; and think about how we will meet the challenges of the future where income from leisure centres is likely to be much reduced compared to previous years and where creative thinking is needed about the places and spaces for being active.

This poses both a leadership challenge and a delivery challenge for councils. It is essential that leaders have the skills and understanding of local and national contexts, to enable them to make innovative, confident and appropriate decisions.

Uniting the Movement, Sport England’s new strategy, comes at a critical time for public leisure and activity services, and acknowledges these challenges alongside pre-pandemic challenges such as increasing participation among less active groups, tackling the inequalities that exist ; capturing and using data to inform delivery; more effectively collaborating with the health and care system ; and working with planning and transport services to develop a more active environment. The new strategy puts place and tackling inequalities at the heart of its approach to supporting physical activity, aligning it with the vision of councils for their communities .

Sport England and the Local Government Association are therefore delighted to announce the return of the successful Leadership Essentials programme for members with responsibility for, or interest in, physical activity. We are piloting an online version of the previously residential programme. It will be an important opportunity for new portfolio holders and if members attended the residential programme a few years ago the content has been refreshed in light of the current context and challenges.

Starting in July this free, online programme will support portfolio holders of sport and physical activity to better understand and harness their leadership role in light of the changing context for sport and physical activity in councils and the new health landscape, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the implications and opportunities for recovery and renewal, taking a place based approach. The programme will include a mixture of speakers from Sport England, LGA and partner councils, group discussions and plenty of opportunity to network and share experiences with members in similar roles.

Aims of the programme

The programme supports elected members to:

  • Engage with Sport England’s new ten-year Strategy ‘Uniting the Movement’, that continues to champion sport and physical activity’s ability to make better places to live and bring people together, and explore how taking a place based approach can help tackle the barriers to activity
  • Develop in their role to lead the design of a local sport, physical activity and movement offer that improves activity levels and the health and wellbeing of local communities, contributes to reducing the burden on social care, tackles health inequalities and encourages connected communities
  • Develop knowledge and insight of other policy areas to better lead a collaborative approach to harnessing the power of sport, physical activity and movement to improve lives in their place
  • Explore their own approach to leadership in collaborative partnerships and see how leadership is important in influencing system change, identifying and pursuing development needs as appropriate
  • Create fit for purpose sport and physical activity opportunities with diminishing resources, focusing on the assets of their spaces and places – including leisure facilities and developing more active environments
  • Understand more about how Sport England and the LGA can help and support councillors to lead change and become better leaders for their places

Dates and programme sessions

Participants will need to attend all six sessions as the programme is iterative and designed as a journey which we go on as a group for its totality, rather than a menu of options. The dates are as follows:

  • Tuesday 13 July 2021 (10am – 12.30pm) Session 1: Understanding the new leadership context
  • Friday 16 July 2021 (2pm – 4.30pm) Session 2: Reducing health inequalities
  • Tuesday 20 July 2021 (10am – 12.30pm) Session 3: Leading sport and physical activity in a challenging, changing world
  • Friday 23 July 2021 (2pm – 4.30pm) Session 4: Understanding People and Community Engagement
  • Tuesday 27 July 2021 (2pm – 4.30pm) Session 5: Spaces and places
  • Friday 30 July 2021 (10am – 12.30pm) Session 6: Setting the ambition

Booking information

This programme is for portfolio holders for sport, leisure and physical activity.

There are 20 places available and demand for this programme is expected to be high and places will be issued on a first come, first served basis.

You will need to attend all the sessions, so please provisionally hold the session times in your diary.

To book or find out more about this event, please email grace.collins@local.gov.uk

More detailed information will be sent to you closer to the event. 

You may also be interested in: Thursday 10 June 2021, 10.30am - 12.30pm: Sport England’s new strategy and implementation plan – a webinar for councillors with a portfolio or interest in sport, physical activity, health and wellbeing