School summer holidays are opening up a major class divide between the fitness levels of deprived children and their more affluent peers, according to new research.
UK Active says the poorest 25 per cent of primary school children experience a drop in their fitness levels 18 times greater than the richest 25 per cent over the school summer holidays, because they cannot afford activities like sports coaching and summer camps.
The not-for-profit organisation tracked the cardiorespiratory fitness levels of more than 400 children in 13 schools across the North West of England over a 13-month period. It is the first study of its kind to measure fitness levels both before and after the summer holidays.
The authors of the study say many of the poorest children are left slumped on the sofa in front of screens, putting them at much higher risk of deadly diseases such as heart disease, cancer and type-II diabetes in later life.
A spokesperson for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: 'We are fully committed to ensuring that young people have clear opportunities to take part in sport and physical activity, and for families to do so together. 'This is backed up by significant investment from Sport England, including the 40 million pound Families Fund which is encouraging children and families from lower socio-economic backgrounds to get active.'