Girls and sport: Schools urged to make PE more attractive to girls

Girls doing sport A number felt teachers paid too much attention to the girls who were best at sport

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Schools are being urged to introduce more female-friendly fitness activities such as Zumba classes and rollerblading because so many girls are opting out of exercise.

Research suggests the gap between the amount of exercise girls and boys do widens during their time at school.

A study for the Women's Sports and Fitness Foundation says more than half of girls are put off by PE classes.

The WSFF wants schools to make sports lessons more appealing to girls.

The research was conducted by Loughborough University, which found big differences in the attitudes of girls and boys towards doing sport.

Those differences were wider among older schoolchildren.

Falling exercise levels

Eight-year-olds did similar levels of activity: about 60% of those questioned, both girls and boys, said they did regular exercise - at least an hour, five days a week.

But among 14-year-old girls, that figure had halved - only 31% said they exercised regularly, compared with 50% of 14-year-old boys.

The research found most girls wanted to do more physical activity, but many were put off by PE classes.

Some said they did not like exercising in front of boys, and they were not confident about their sporting skills.

Girls at Willowfield School in east London talk about why they enjoy sport

A number felt teachers paid too much attention to the girls who were best at sport.

Role models

Girls were also concerned about what their friends thought about exercise, and said getting sweaty was not feminine.

And many of those questioned said they did not think there were enough female sporting role models.

The WSFF is writing to schools offering advice on how to make school sports more attractive to girls.

WSFF said some PE lessons were "stuck in the 1950s jolly-hockey-sticks style of the past".

"It's simply unacceptable that the overwhelming majority of our young women are leaving school with dangerously low levels of physical activity," said WSFF chief executive Sue Tibbals.

"We can't afford to keep ignoring the evidence that school sport plays a key role in shaping attitudes to sports and fitness."

The Youth Sport Trust said schools needed to do more to address issues such as girls feeling body conscious or lacking confidence in their abilities.

"Schools that deliver PE well recognise these challenges and offer a wider variety of sports and physical activity that make girls feel included," said chairwoman Baroness Sue Campbell.

"We would like to see all schools take this approach."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 692.

    IMHO the problem is twofold: a problem with our culture (girls feel pressurised to look perfect 24/7) and a problem with schools (horrible changing rooms, teachers who only care about athletic kids and don't encourage the rest to do well, lack of variety of activities). Maybe if PE lessons improve, kids will enjoy PE so much that they will not care so much about the pressure to look perfect!

  • rate this

    Comment number 690.

    I hated PE at school, I wasn't sporty at all. However, I did try my best at all times, and at team sports such as hockey or rounders I was at least slighlty competent. However, when it came to activities such as gymnastics I wasn't capable and for that I was teased. I felt sick before PE lessons and there was little or no support from teachers. Girls should be able to choose which sports to learn.

  • rate this

    Comment number 489.

    I was never good at PE at school, but I still enjoyed it greatly. My PE teachers were very supportive and recognised effort. I have fond memories of playing rounders and doing trampolining, plus didn't have to do football and could do netball instead. Having read the comments on here I feel very lucky that we had such a supportive PE staff with a varied curriculum!

  • rate this

    Comment number 478.

    All these comments point to 1 theme....girls need to have increased confidence in themselves to try & participate in new activities. We need to cultivate this & will find that it will improve female participation all the way through to being credible boardroom members. I hated sport @ school -thought I could not do it well enough but with encouragement am now running international half marathons!

  • rate this

    Comment number 468.

    I hated PE; I had no drive to do it, found it boring and tedious. I was a real coach potato.
    Cut to now and I'm a keen runner, health freak and skater, all down to Roller Derby (female, full contact sport on quad skates). It changed my life and has done so for many other people. If gives you real body confidence, boosts your esteem and makes you WANT to keep fit. Get this in schools!!!


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