Oxford City Council achieves excellence in Quest for Active Communities

Oxford City Council has become the first local authority in the country to receive an ‘Excellent’ rating in Quest for Active Communities, the new assessment model from Quest, Sport England’s quality scheme for sport and leisure.

Quest for Active Communities directly supports the priorities outlined in both Sport England’s strategy ‘Towards an Active Nation’ and the government’s ‘Sporting Future’ strategy, including physical health, mental wellbeing, individual development, social/community development and economic development.

The achievement of ‘Excellent’ in the new award – which replaces the old Quest Sport Development assessment – is the latest development in a long-standing relationship between Quest and Oxford City Council, which also manages three Quest-accredited leisure centres as well as an ice rink and an outdoor pool.

According to Hagan Lewisman, Active Communities Manager at the Council, Quest’s decision to replace the Sport Development assessment with a new Active Communities model dovetailed perfectly with changes the council was already implementing. This included internal restructuring to create an Active Communities services team, integrating the individual teams for Sport and Physical Activity, Leisure, Parks and Green Space Development, Youth Ambition and Community Centres.

The new team has also forged much closer partnerships with the council’s housing, planning, environmental sustainability and community safety teams, as well as with external groups such as community associations, tenants and residents’ associations, social clubs, housing associations and even pubs.

Lewisman said: “The new Quest model very much reflects the direction we have been moving in: working in partnership to have more demonstrable impact within our communities. It focuses more on the impacts delivered in a better, more holistic way; and it has allowed us to showcase more of the work we already do while also highlighting new areas for us to grow into. Meanwhile, the process itself was as positive and productive as ever.”

The introduction of two new modules and substantial changes to existing modules in the move from the Sport Development to the Active Communities model did mean an initial increase in work, but according to Lewisman, this helped the team to focus and ensured they were fully prepared. “The assessment itself was also more challenging, but in a constructive way,” he added.

The new modules – Increasing Participation and Reducing Inactivity, and Insight and Marketing – have allowed the council to demonstrate what it’s already doing in these areas while also identifying where it can improve. “The main challenge highlighted was how to differentiate between where we have increased participation and where we have reduced inactivity, as these can be very different,” said Lewisman. “We now have a better understanding of both the insight and targeted approach required.”

Modules where the council did particularly well included People and Skills Development; Partnerships and Collaboration; Engaging with Young People; and Engaging with Communities.

Ian Brooke, Head of Community Services at Oxford City Council, said: “We have chosen to work with Quest for the past eight years because of its focus on continuous improvement and its commitment to helping organisations like ours to demonstrate the impact we have on the communities we serve.

“With less central funding available we are operating in an ever-more challenging environment and, in order to attract external investment, the need to make a strong case for sport and leisure is imperative. The rigorous quality assurance offered by Quest enables us to do that, as well as allowing us to benchmark ourselves effectively against others in the industry.

“Quest also has good recognition within the industry, and increasingly outside it, which gives both our communities and our partners confidence in our services.”

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For further information contact:
Rhianon Howells at Big Fish Public Relations
Tel: 01843 600610
Mob: 07967 551142
Email: rhianon@bigfishpublicrelations.co.uk

Editor’s notes:

Quest is the UK Quality Scheme for Sport and Leisure. Managed on behalf of Sport England by Right Directions, in partnership with Leisure-net Solutions, it is a tool for continuous improvement, designed primarily for the management of leisure facilities and leisure development. Quest defines industry standards and good practice, and encourages their ongoing development and delivery within a customer-focused management framework.

The National Benchmarking Service (NBS) provides critical data on the performance of your leisure facility. Leisure-net Solutions, together with the Sport Industry Research Centre (SIRC) at Sheffield Hallam University, work on behalf of Sport England to provide a seamless, rigorous and valuable collection and analysis of participation, financial and customer satisfaction data. For more information, visit questnbs.org.

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