The PARIS 2024 programme has kicked off to support United Learning pupils’ physical and mental wellbeing.
Madison Challis

The PARIS 2024 programme has kicked off to support United Learning pupils’ physical and mental wellbeing.

We sat down with Shaun Dowling, Department Head, Strategy & Sports Performance to discuss PARIS 2024, an initiative taking place across our schools with the aim of encouraging all young people to become more active.

This year’s Olympic Games in Paris is the inspiration for the PARIS 2024 initiative.

A shorthand for Physical Activity Recreation and Inspiring Paris 2024, the project has a simple aim, says Shaun: “I want more young people to be more active more often.” The initiative focuses on three strands: increasing physical activity, targeting underrepresented demographics, and promoting unity within United Learning through intra-school activities and house competitions. The United Learning strategic aim of fostering great places to learn underpins the whole project.

The number '2024' provides a focal point for various physical activity challenges, promoting daily routines and pushing participants out of their comfort zones – although the aim, Shaun emphasises, "is to focus on activities that both pupils and teachers can build into their daily lifestyles." Example activities range from 20 minutes of daily physical activity every day for 24 weeks, to covering 20 kilometres every week through walking, running, cycling, rowing, paddling, pushing, scooting or wheeling. Shaun underscores the importance of adaptability, to make sure the challenges are inclusive and suitable for everyone.

The initiative encourages active participation from parents, local businesses, and community members. Shaun and colleague Catherine Barker are leading a cycling challenge from London to Paris, raising funds to support priority projects and activities that support physical and/or mental wellbeing across United Learning schools. "There is still time to donate, support, or even join Catherine, me, and everyone else participating in this immense challenge," Shaun reminds us, directing supporters to their Just Giving page.

Shaun’s motivation for championing the PARIS 2024 initiative is rooted in a career dedicated to instilling a passion for sports in young people. His goal is to address low physical activity rates, particularly among underprivileged children, and make a tangible difference in their lives through sports. In his own words, "I want them to feel the benefits of being active and having exercise in their lives."

To make sure that the initiative is easy for schools to access, most activities are free. Schools are encouraged to tailor activities based on their context and budget and with the freedom to draw their inspiration from 72 Olympic and Paralympic sports, to create an experience that resonates with their pupil community.

Shaun hopes that the PARIS 2024 initiative will generate a lasting legacy where more young people adopt physical activity as a lifelong habit, supporting both their mental and physical wellbeing. Success will be measured not just by the longevity of the programme, to which Shaun is committed, but through its impact in building an ingrained habit of activity in more children and young people.

The Paris 2024 Programme launched on February 9, 2024. To support activities across United Learning schools that support physical and mental wellbeing, consider contributing to the cycling challenge from London to Paris through the Just Giving page.


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