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 464.

    You look at all these reports that come out informing schools of what they should and should not do, and look to the future.
    A child will be greeted at their very own school by their very own butler.
    They will be handed a menu of the food and activities available and invited to make a choice as to how the day should be spent.
    Might have to raise taxes a tad though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 463.

    I recognise almost every point raised by the WSFF – except I’m not convinced it’s a gender issue – I was entirely put off sport by PE teachers for exactly the same reasons, and I’m a bloke!

    One would hope it’s different now, but 35 years ago, unless you conformed to a particular type, you were at best ignored and worst picked on by teachers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 462.

    My child goes to a school where it is really compulsory, no getting out of it and the truth is that once the child has no option then they can get on and enjoy it.

    I think it needs to be focused, when you can try lots of things you end up not being good at any.

  • rate this

    Comment number 461.

    My hatred of PE started in primary school. Teachers encouraged "good"/popular children to pick teams, and mocked those who couldn't do it. It was only when I became a (primary) teacher myself that I realised PE wasn't just about natural ability: that there are actually skills (such as throwing and catching) that can be taught. I was't a hopeless case after all!

  • rate this

    Comment number 460.

    And they wonder why so many girls are obese and WILL DIE YOUNG ??
    They do not like getting sweaty !! What are showers for ??

  • rate this

    Comment number 459.

    A real parental letter sent to a PE teacher in Glasgow:-

    "Please excuse Anne from PE today as she has the menopause."

  • rate this

    Comment number 458.

    I recall in Singapore I was told that national service was something like 6 months, if you were normally weight...but longer still if you were overweight!

    Well its one way to tackle the obesity problem!

  • rate this

    Comment number 457.

    re 319. Lady Samantha

    What and you actually enjoyed that and thought it was ok to be treated like that? maybe some of us want better for our girls than this, the report is bang on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 456.

    It isn't just girls who are put off from sport by their PE lessons. My own experience of PE was that they tried to get me to do a whole lot of 'circus tricks' which were potentially dangerous, and which I couldn't do, anyway. I now hate sport so much that I turn off the television when the sport comes on. I appreciate the importance of exercise, though, and often go for long walks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 455.

    As a mother of three daughters ( and we all hate school sport) I would say that girls like mine enjoy non-competitive things like Zumba, yoga and dancercise. Exercise can be fun, but it doesn't seem unreasonable for people (and I think some boys feel this way too) to object to aggressive, competitive team sports often played in appalling weather. We need a far wider range of options for all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 454.

    I think there's too much pressure on PE teachers (either externally infliected or an internal desire) to find the next sport star. They need to remember that chances are that nobody who passes through their hands will be that person; but everyone who does will benefit from learning to enjoy some form of exercise.

    Their goal should be to make exercise enjoyable, so that people will keep doing it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 453.

    Dear 420. Pete Williams You say

    "Both Girls and Boys PE in the average school is pretty poor"

    Wouldn't it be closer to the fact to say "Both Girls and Boys PE in the average school is pretty average",

    As a consultant you are probably subbing in for non PE specialists in poor schools who had in the past been forced to take PE lessons.

    So in fact you probably never get to visit "good schools".

  • rate this

    Comment number 452.

    I disliked PE in my first three years at secondary school - we were made to do things. By the time we reached years 10&11 we and the teachers realised that if they tried to make us do something a lot of girls would suddenly come down with stomach cramps. Good bye bleep test and dance, hello rounders, tennis, netball. I would have liked to give rugby a go as well, but only the boys got to do that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 451.

    In my experience, the sort of girls that skived off of PE were already "lost causes". Underage drinkers, smokers, failing other classes and just didn't care.

    This isn't a problem with girls not wanting to do PE; it's a far deeper sociological problem. Making them run about for a couple of hours a week isn't going to change anything, you have to change their way of thinking from an earlier age.

  • rate this

    Comment number 450.

    Why does Someone Else always have to do all the work? I hated PE at school, hated playing rugby, hated hockey, couldn't run to save my life etc. In my 30s I decided I was sick of being fat and started cycling, lost nearly 70 pounds, boosted my fitness immeasurably and found a sport I love doing. If I'd sat on my backside waiting for Someone Else to facilitate it I'd still be obese.

  • rate this

    Comment number 449.

    think-for-myself, many young sports men and women die because they often have cardiac problems that haven't been caught at health scans, not because exercise isn't good for you.

    PE does need to involve more than the 'competitive sports' and there should definitely be classes on healthy eating and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

  • rate this

    Comment number 448.

    It wasn't just the girls. PE put me off sport, especially team sport for life. Even just watching it.

    Thing is when sport was 'play' in Primary School I had loads of fun. My PE teachers were surprised how much I did in an open even after school. That was because it was fun, play and not a 'sport'.

    So bad PE can actually be worse for someone long term. 17 years on I still hate the PE sports.

  • rate this

    Comment number 447.

    I hated and dreaded PE. I was, and still am, skinny and poorly co-ordinated, although fit as we had no car & walked everywhere. PE lessons were used by the teacher to train her school team on 'lesser mortals'. No amount of running around would have kept me warm while wearing only t-shirt and shorts.

    Since leaving school I have come to enjoy swimming & yoga, despite rather than because of PE.

  • rate this

    Comment number 446.

    PE lessons are all about building the school team in "xyz" game. That is the problem. These lessons should aim providing exercise opportunities for all students.

    Imagine maths lessons focusing only on the best 20 something students in the whole school, and totally neglecting the rest.

    The way they are, PE lessons drive a larger number of students away from sports than they attract.

  • rate this

    Comment number 445.

    You can say what you like about the 50s "jolly hockey sticks mentality", but we all went to single sex schools so didn't worry about being watched, and judged, by boys. I'm sure if we had to do sport with boys ogling us there would have been very few of us doing it.


Page 18 of 41


More Health stories



Copyright © 2015 BBC. 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.