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

Related Stories

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."


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 404.

    PE seems generally hated, it has no place in the school curriculum..

    Instead, encourage exercise by providing free facilities outside the school curriculum, (but maybe in the school building), not only for children but adults of all ages.

    Encouragement would work far better than compulsion and would help the whole nation's health.

  • rate this

    Comment number 403.

    Girls spend a lot of time, effort and money on trying to achieve a certain image "making the best of what you've got". Expensive hairdo's, nails, high heels, fashionable clothes and make up. None of that has any application in sport, in fact it's the complete antithesis. Flat shoes, hair in a pony tail, track suits and baggy shirts, short trimmed nails and "OMG,,," sweating. All else is excuses.

  • rate this

    Comment number 402.


    What, specifically, do you want your 5 year old to do in PE? Rugby? Half-marathons? Cage-fighting? Have you studied physical development in children and the importance of developing co-ordination and a blend of fine and gross motor control? (Saying that, the school shouldn't hide behind the national curriculum.)

  • rate this

    Comment number 401.

    Dear 394. Walijczyk. You "know a lot of teachers" do you know Pete?

    391. peteachderby

    As a PE teacher (who doesn't scream shout and yell at my students) I wholly agree with some of the comments and want participation and enjoyment to be the main focus. Our students wear tracksuits to lessons and don't shower. We have a very old school with limited facilties of which we lose some to exams too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 400.

    I concur with those who say that sport should be tailored to the needs of the pupil and be part of a broader health promoting ethos. Poor school dinners (like poor hospital food) negate any positives from exercise (or treatment). Some schools are coming round to the idea that encouraging pupils to walk to school has a lasting benefit. I must say I was no great fan of cross-country runs though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 399.

    couldn't agree more! I loved the dancing and found I had natural rhythm and love to dance to this day.
    Sports though - hate them still! If you treat someone as an idiot - that's what they become.

  • rate this

    Comment number 398.

    #371. 1125678

    I went to a selective county grammar school in NW Wales in the late 60s/early 70s. It was not short of money or equipment. It had a state of the art gym, well maintained grass tennis courts and extensive playing fields. Only the latter were used. We had a sadistic little prat of PE teacher who was only interested in team sports and only interested in those who excelled at these.

  • rate this

    Comment number 397.

    I hated PE. The "proper" PE teacher selected the biggest kids on the first day for special treatment and the rest of us got fobbed off on a Geography teacher who probably just liked seeing lads in shorts. However, I was extremely fit because I had a paper round and rode ten miles to go fishing three times a week. Now, by law I wouldn't be allowed to work and the roads are to busy to ride a bike!

  • rate this

    Comment number 396.

    I loved football, cricket, badminton, tennis, rounders and running, but gymnastics, field sports and especially swimming (at the local baths) were a massive turn off. That said, as punishment for being hopeless at swimming, my PE teacher made me and another lad join the mums and toddlers class one day and we had a fantastic hour of fun!

  • rate this

    Comment number 395.

    I'm a man, 58. It was always thus, for both sexes. If you were the fat kid, or other misfit at the end of the cross country run exercise, disinterest and ridicule were the order of the day. Only those who'd make the school teams were encouraged, the rest of us being the butt of the egostistical teacher's 'wit', and never got to play in a proper match. It stank.

  • rate this

    Comment number 394.

    Dear PE teachers,

    Mindlessly repeating the phrase 'lactic acid' doesn't make PE real subject and it doesn't make you a real teacher.

    I know a number of teachers and it's reassuring to hear that PE teachers are as despised by their colleagues as they are by the children (and the general public).

  • rate this

    Comment number 393.

    This is a study asks the wrong question

    cultural changes in life might find us growing up in sentry activities such as computing Postures and lack of active exercise during work will deteriorate the body quickly with costs to the individual and NHS.

    The solution is a policy of physical activity set by each school which must be undertaken to graduate clearly the result of playing field sell off!

  • rate this

    Comment number 392.

    We were given effort grades for sport, 1 (high) to 3 (low). I always got a 2, this seemed fair until one year I really tried, I practiced between lessons, I arrived early to every class and gave it my all. I was still rubbish but I tried. That year, I still got a "2", so I figured it wasn't worth the effort and stopped trying.

    Sports teachers need to recognise effort as well as skill.

  • rate this

    Comment number 391.

    As a PE teacher (who doesn't scream shout and yell at my students) I wholly agree with some of the comments and want participation and enjoyment to be the main focus. Our students wear tracksuits to lessons and don't shower. We have a very old school with limited facilties of which we lose some to exams too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 390.

    I too hated PE at school simply because I wanted to play football & rugby but wasn't allowed to because I am a girl. Our PE teacher at middle school was lovely (male) at upper school had the most sadistic PE teacher (female) who only liked netball & hockey with the popular girls.

  • rate this

    Comment number 389.

    I don't think that introducing dance as an alternative if the issue is confidence will work. The movements will still be there and girls who dislike running around are far less likely to have the rhythm for dance. I also think there is something to be said about the positive effect exercise has on the brain. Its not a coincidence that doctors prescribe exercise in cases of depression.

  • rate this

    Comment number 388.

    Quite simply, if children are encouraged (and not discouraged) to exercise and to try sports as part of that, and if schools promote local sports groups, those that are good at sports will find their talents.

  • rate this

    Comment number 387.

    If sport is so good for you how come so many sportsmen and women die at a relatively young age?

    And as the topic has come up so often - why are there communal showers in schools? Do PE teachers have them in their own homes?

  • rate this

    Comment number 386.

    PE lessons put everybody off sport, not just the girls.

    In my experience the vast majority of PE teachers were bullies, ritual humiliation was common, the changing rooms and communal showers were just brutal in terms of being bullying hotspots. I mean, having to be naked in front of all your class mate bullies? With no teachers present? Whoever thought that was a good idea.

  • rate this

    Comment number 385.

    Further to my comment at 359. I am not suggesting that wood cutting be made part of the school curriculum. If it is, I'm prepared to give lessons - provided I get to keep the wood. (I'm secretly lazy when it comes to exercise).


Page 21 of 41


More Health stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.