Frequently Asked Questions


This page provides frequently asked questions on the Sport England Small Area Estimates web tool. This help section is split into two parts:

  • Common questions and basic help using the tool
  • Background information about the Small Area Estimates including technical information

If you cannot find the answer to your question on this page, then please get in touch with us at You can contact us:

  • to report technical issues or problems
  • with your comments and feedback on how to make the site better
  • if you would like to take part in surveys to help shape future enhancements of the site

Common questions and basic help using the tool

What are the different participation indicators that can be selected?

The tool enables users to display a map of small area estimates for two different definitions of participation, as follows:

1x30 sport.  The percentage of the adult population (aged 16 and over) who participate in at least 30 minutes of sport at moderate intensity at least once a week (at least 4 sessions of at least moderate intensity for at least 30 minutes in the previous 28 days)

Sport and active recreation (formerly NI8).  The percentage of the adult population (age 16 and over) who participate in sport and active recreation, at moderate intensity, for at least 30 minutes on at least 12 days out of the last 4 weeks (equivalent to 30 minutes on 3 or more days a week). NI8 includes recreational walking and cycling and certain light intensity activities (bowls, archery, croquet, yoga and pilates) for those age 65 and over.

How do I specify the area I want to display small area estimates for?

Within ‘select your location/area of interest’ you can select the following:

Local authority. This will provide the small area estimates for the local authority selected (the selected local authority will be shown with a red border). The small area estimates for the surrounding MSOAs will also be shown.

County Sport Partnership (CSP). In a similar way to the selection of local authorities, this will provide the small area estimates for the MSOAs within the selected CSP (the selected CSP will be shown with a red border).

Postcode. By typing in a postcode, the tool will generate map of the small area estimates within a 5 km radius of the postcode, (the postcode indicated by a red cross, and the radius by a red circle). Note that if a partial postcode is entered then the map will display the extent of the partial postcode area, which will also be highlighted with a red border.

Sports facility (type the name into the box). The tool will free-find facilities as the user types the name of the desired facility into the box. As with post codes, the tool will generate a map of the small area estimates within a 5km radius of the facility (the facility indicated by a red cross, and the radius by a red circle).

How can I zoom in and out of the maps?

You can zoom in and out of the maps by using the ‘zoom’ scale bar on the left hand side of the map interface. Click plus symbol to zoom in by one scale level or click the negative symbol to zoom out by one scale level. Alternatively click at a desired point on the scale bar itself. Users can also double click within the map window to zoom in by one scale level.
To navigate / move around the map use the arrow keys above the ‘zoom’ scale bar or use the mouse to click hold and drag the map.

How can I determine the participation value for a given area?

Hovering over the MSOA area with the mouse provides users with a tool tip in the bottom right corner of the map window that displays the code name for the MSOA and the value of the participation estimate for the MSOA. The same tool tip will display when Local Authority participation data is displayed.

What does ‘display options’ enable users to do?

This enables the users to select additional data layers to display on the map. This includes different facility types from Active Places or administrative boundaries such as Local Authorities and County Sport Partnership boundaries. Within this section users can also alter the prominence of the map base layer.

How can facilities be shown on the map?

Sports facilities can be added to the map within ‘display options’ (located on the top right hand corner). Select the facility type you require from the list within the ‘Sports Facility’ list (e.g. athletics tracks, grass pitches) and then press ‘update’. The map will now show the selected facility type, which will also be shown in the legend at the bottom left hand side of the map. (Multiple facility types can be selected by using the control key).

How can I print the maps?

Go to ‘export results’ in the top right hand corner and save the output as a PDF file or an image, which will then allow users to print the map.

Who do I contact if I have any questions about this tool?

If you cannot find the answer to your question on this page, then please get in touch with us at

Background information about the Small Area Estimates including technical information

Why produce small area statistics?

Local Authorities are not homogenous. Smaller areas within Local Authorities tend to be characterised by groups with differing socio-demographic characteristics. Socio-demographic characteristics have been shown to impact on levels of sport and active recreation. Therefore the assumption can be made that within Local Authorities participation levels will vary. This has implications for the prioritisation of resources and investment decisions. However, the smallest geography which the Active People Survey (Sport England’s national survey of adult sport participation) can accurately measure participation in sport and active recreation is at Local Authority level. Below this geography, the number of responses is too small to produce reliable figures. One solution to this is the production of “modelled” estimates at smaller geographies.

What are modelled estimates?

It is not possible to use the Active People Survey directly to produce figures at MSOA (Middle Super Output Area) level, i.e. at a geographical level below local authority. This is because the sample size for MSOA is not large enough and in some incidences contains data from only a handful of respondents.

MSOA participation estimates are based on modelled estimates of participation. Modelled estimates combine survey data from Sport England’s Active People Survey with other data sources that are available at the area level (for example, health indicators, socioeconomic status etc) and through a statistical modelling process, provide small area estimates of participation (further information on how the estimates were created can be found in the technical report). Modelled estimates of participation are based on data from Sport England’s Active People Survey 6 (Oct 2011-Oct 2012).

The modelled estimates methodology was pioneered by the ONS and the Department of Health. It is based on the principle that measurements like quality of health, unemployment or sports participation are partially a result of other variables such as ethnicity, NS-SEC, employment status and educational attainment. Many of these variables are available at smaller geographic areas (mainly because they come from administrative sources rather than surveys). Therefore it is possible to produce a model which uses these variables to calculate estimates of key survey indicators.

What are super output areas?

Super Output Areas (SOA) were developed as an alternative to Wards for calculating small area statistics. Unlike Wards and other smaller geographies, all SOA represent a similar number of people allowing for comparability across smaller geographic areas. There are three levels of SOA; Lower, Middle and Upper layers. For this project, it was decided to use MSOA (Middle layer) information to produce smaller area statistics. The Upper layer boundaries have not yet been finalised and the Lower layers are too small to produce meaningful estimates.

There are 6,791 MSOA in England, each with a mean population of 7,200 people. For each MSOA, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) provides data on a wide variety of topics including educational attainment, housing, crime and deprivation. Further information can be found on

How should the small area estimates be interpreted?

Because these are estimates rather than statistics we should be careful of drawing hard and fast conclusions from the data. The estimates show “indications”, “likelihoods” or “probabilities” of differences between MSOA rather than definite differences. Many of the estimates are also not significantly different from each other.

In creating the maps of the small area estimates, the participation estimates are grouped using a quantile classification method and mapped using a thematic [1] style (i.e. ranging from white to dark blue). The quantile classification method divides the total sample into four classes with each class containing the same number of local authorities or as close as possible. This allows for example the identification of those Local Authorities nationally within the top 25% or top quarter.

[1] A thematic or choropleth map uses areas distinctly colored or shaded to represent classed values of a particular phenomenon.

Is there a technical report with further information on how the estimates were developed?

This is available to download from the Sport England website. Click here.