STATISTICS, TRENDS AND RESEARCH FOR YOUTH WORK
YOUTH WORK & SPORT
To be notified about new issues
Would you like the good news or the bad
news? As you wish…
IN THIS ISSUE:
The bad news is that this is the last printed
edition of The Story. After 22 volumes we have
conceded that (for now) research will need
to be delivered digitally in order to be costeffective.
Also, no one could re-fold the paper
version successfully – but that’s by the by.
Youth Work & Sport
Mapping the Landscape
The good news is that necessity is the mother
of invention. It’s a bit pricey to deliver stats to
you in this format, so we are going back to the
drawing board to ask ourselves how research
can most effectively be shared with, and
shape, the youth ministry community. A weekly
email? An annual report? Videos? Performance
art? Your thoughts on this are very welcome
at email@example.com. While we take
time to consider these questions we will still
be producing one volume of The Story each
quarter – all of which will be available for free
at our website.
In this last printed edition you’ll find new
evidence on young people and sport, the rise
(or not) of vaping, youth ministry in the South
West and a poster on young people and peer
evangelism. We hope you find it interesting.
Thanks for reading,
Director of Research, Youthscape
YOUTH WORK DIAGRAMS:
EVERYTHING YOU NEED
TO KNOW ABOUT…
This month the Centre is saying goodbye
to Gry Apeland, who has worked in the
team for the last three years. Gry has
provided invaluable support for all things
research-related, not least The Story, and
will be missed.
We have also published a new piece
of research called ‘Influencers: peer
evangelism amongst young people in the
UK’ which you can download for free at
SNAPSHOT: Youth Work & Sport
In May this year, the Youth
Sport Trust released a new
report looking at the latest
research on children and
young people’s activity
levels. Here are a few
The impact of exercise on school performance.
Sport has long been associated with improved
wellbeing, but research is also demonstrating the
long-term positive impact of physical activity on
academic attainment. 1 In particular, higher levels
of physical activity are positively associated with
attention in adolescents, which supports learning
in school. 2
Young people engage less in physical activities
since the pandemic.
Almost three quarters (73%) of school leaders
reported children returning to school with poor
levels of physical fitness following Covid-19
restrictions. 3 Overall, children’s activity levels
have fallen by 13% compared to pre-pandemic
Barriers to engaging in physical activity.
Unfortunately, existing inequalities have widened
since the start of the pandemic. Young people
from the least affluent families remain the least
active and are falling further behind, and children
from Black and South Asian communities are
less active than the overall average. 5 In 2021,
37% of girls said that their periods stopped them
being active, an increase from 27% in 2018/19. 6
By their teenage years, 78% of girls understand
the importance of an active lifestyle but only 28%
really enjoy taking part in physical activity. 7
What might this mean for youth work?
For lots of young people PE is a main source
of exercise, and yet state secondary schools in
England taught 13% fewer hours of PE in 2021
than in 2011 and not all young people enjoy
these lessons. 8 Community and faith-based youth
work can offer exercise and sports activities in
a way that reflects their alternative value base.
For example, Women in Sport suggest eight
principles for success when inviting teenage
girls to participate in sport, that may help build
exercise-positive cultures beyond PE. These
include: no judgement, giving voice and choice,
clear emotional reward, invoke excitement and
expand image of what ‘sporty’ looks like.
1. Booth J, Leary S, Joinson C, Ness A, Tomporowski P, Boyle J & Reilly J (2014). Associations between objectively measured
physical activity and academic attainment in adolescents from a UK cohort. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 48, 265–270.
2. Booth, J. N., et al (2013) Associations between executive attention and objectively measured physical activity in
adolescence: Findings from ALSPAC, a UK cohort, Mental Health and Physical Activity, 6 (3), pp.212–219. 3. Youth Sport Trust.
2020. Returning to school after COVID-19. 4. Salway et al. IntJ Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2022. Accelerometer measured physical
activity and sedentary time among children and their parents in the UK before and after COVID 19 lockdowns: a natural
experiment. 5. Sport England. 2021. Active Lives Children and Young People Survey – Academic year 2020–21. 6. Youth
Sport Trust. Girls Active research 2021. 7. Women in Sport/Sport England. 2019. Reframing Sport for Teenage Girls: Building
Strong Foundations for Their Futures. 8. Statistics: school workforce – GOV. UK. 2021.
NEW RESEARCH: Mapping the Landscape
A snapshot of how churches and Christian
organisations are working with young people
across the South West of England.
South West Youth Ministries recently
published a report in which they
surveyed 972 churches and 48
organisations across the South West
of England on their engagement with
children and young people. We have
compared their main findings with
some of our findings from St Albans
Diocese in “Faith in Young People” to
see if there are similarities across the
Where are the volunteers?
A lack of volunteers is the most significant
concern for churches working with young
“Mapping the Landscape” found that 59% of
churches struggled with a lack of volunteers.
Smaller churches found it more challenging
to find volunteers than bigger churches. Small
churches and churches in more rural areas are
also less likely to employ someone to work
with children and young people than bigger
churches in urban areas. As such, the churches
most reliant on volunteers are also the ones
finding it hardest to find volunteers.
This reflects the findings from our research
“Faith in Young People” in 2020 in which
Church of England clergy in the Diocese of St
Albans described the recruitment and retention
of volunteers as the greatest challenge facing
their youth ministry.
Training and recruitment
Churches and organisations are facing
challenges in training, recruiting, and retaining
‘As an organisation, we are struggling to recruit
well qualified and experienced youth workers.’
41% of those in employed roles working with
children and young people had been in post
less than three years.
A higher percentage of ministries that employ
people to work with young people are seeing
that ministry work with greater numbers on a
regular basis. “Faith in Young People” found no
difference between numbers of young people
engaged with in the church with an employed
youth leader compared to a volunteer youth
leader. However, our report did find that
churches with an employed youth leader
engaged with a higher number of young people
in the local community.
Reaching out together
Organisations are taking a lead in partnership
and outward focussed activity.
Mapping the landscape found that 65% of
churches in the South West of England work
in partnerships sometimes, often or always
– a similar figure to the 67% of churches in
St Albans Diocese. The clergy surveyed for
Faith in Young People found that churches
particularly valued being able to partner
with others to take young people away for
residentials or events outside the local area,
and benefitted from partnership with local youth
work charities that provided ongoing support.
When it comes to activities provided, the charts
below show that organisations in the South
West are much more likely than churches to be
running certain kinds of community outreach,
including in-school groups and detached work.
In contrast, 91% of churches surveyed in the
St Albans Diocese were engaged in schools
work – though much of this is likely to be
clergy taking assemblies or lessons, rather than
Activities of churches & organisations (1)
Activities of churches & organisations (2)
0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50%
Family based future?
There is evidence of a move towards
intergenerational approaches to working with
The most common title for someone who had
been employed to work with young people
in the South West of England was Youth,
Children and Families Minister (19.9%). While
there are still quite a lot of ‘Youth pastors’ and
‘Youth leaders’ in the region, a lot of the roles
recruited for in churches or organisations in
the South West combine a variety of ages.
This reflects what we found in “Faith in Young
People” where 58% of youth leaders (volunteer
or employed) were also responsible for either
children, families, or both, suggesting this is a
national rather than a regional trend. There may
be multiple drivers for this, including economic
(the need to reduce the number of paid staff)
and theological/pastoral (a growing emphasis
on intergenerational ministry).
Data has been collected annually on young
people’s use of e-cigarettes and tobacco. The
2021 survey was filled out by 2513 11–18 year
olds, and is representative of young people in
Great Britain. 1
% USE OF E-CIGARETTES BY 11–17 YEAR OLDS
Have never used/unaware of e-cigarettes Have tried them once or twice Use them more than once a week
Previous e-cigarette user Use them less than weekly
In 2021 11.2% of 11–17 year olds had tried vaping, compared to 13.9% in 2020. This is largely
unchanged from 2015 when 11.6% of 11–17 year olds had tried e-cigarettes.
% USE OF E-CIGARETTES BY AGE, 2021
I have never used them/unaware of e-cigarettes I have only tried an e-cigarette once or twice I use them
more than once a week I used e-cigarettes in the past but no longer do I use them less than weekly
1.6 2.4 3.5
Children under 16 are the least likely to try e-cigarettes. In 2021, only 6.5% of 11–15 year olds had
tried vaping, compared to 23.2% of 16–17 year olds. Just under a third of 18 year olds reported trying
an e-cigarette (30.1%)
% ORDER OF USE – TOBACCO, CIGARETTES AND E-CIGARETTES
Tried real cigarettes before first trying e-cigarette Tried e-cigarettes before first trying real cigarette
Have never smoked real cigarette but have tried e-cigarette
2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
The percentage of 11–18 year olds who tried real cigarettes before vaping has almost halved since
2014 (39.8%), but is still higher than the number who tried vaping before smoking (24.6%). There has
been concern that the growing visibility of vaping would lead to an uptake in young people smoking
tobacco cigarettes, but recent studies have found that vaping is viewed differently from tobacco, so
attitudes towards smoking do not seem to have softened. 2
Young people’s awareness
of e-cigarettes may well have
increased, and the likelihood of
trying or currently using e-cigarettes
also seems to increase with age
and smoking status. However, this
data doesn’t seem to suggest any
significant increase in the use of
e-cigarettes among young people
since 2015. We are curious to see
if this trend changes in 2022, given
our experience locally of a sharp
increase in young people vaping.
Assistant Director of Youthscape Luton:
“Vaping is attractive to young people for many of the
same reasons that it provides challenges to youth
workers: it’s illegal for under 18s, it can be done
discretely, there is no bad smell, and it fits neatly in a
pocket. So, many of those we work with on our youth
programmes are vaping in the toilets and then lying
about it, which is challenging when we are wanting
to build a culture of respect and trust. Rather than
banning vaping (which doesn’t stop it) or banning those
who vape (who we want to support), we are currently
creating contexts where vaping can occur on our terms.
This helps maintain good relationships and allows us to
explore the reasons behind the behaviour.”
1. Action on Smoking and Health (ASH). Use of e-cigarettes among young people in Great Britain. 2021. 2. Brown et al (2020).
A qualitative study of e-cigarette emergence and the potential for renormalisation of smoking in UK youth. International Journal
of Drug Policy (75)
follow us on Twitter
TWITTER POLL: In a word
Bute Mills, 74 Bute Street,
Luton, LU1 2EY
Which single wordle answer describes your youth ministry
right now? Thanks to all 35 of you who completed our
twitter poll, and enabled us to deliver this decisive result
Registered charity no. 1081754.
Registered company no. 3939801
registered in England, a company
limited by guarantee.
Cover photo by Daniel Ramos on