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 444.

    The biggest reason why girls in secondary schools don't like sport is there's no time for them to get their make up right in their PE kit and no time for them to spend in private showers and getting their hair and make up right after the activity.

    Today's teenagers want to look good above all else - the timetable doesn't give them the space to do that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 443.

    415. satsig
    All school leavers should be given a certificate recording how fast they can run a mile.

    Why? What useful purpose would that achieve?

  • Comment number 442.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 441.

    PE teachers need to make it more understandable. For example, a portion of class should explain the science behind exercise. Girls are language oriented, use that to advantage. I did not like the physical part so much either as I am not a great athlete, and it did not help also that I developed asthma as a teen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 440.

    I don't know about this. We had arobics for the unsporty people at school and I always felt it was missing out. I would have prefered streamed sports lessons, so that you still got to try the real sports but with people of a similar ability.

    Of course teachers focus on the good kids, the pride of the school's sports teams are at stake, hence why I think streaming would help a lot

  • rate this

    Comment number 439.

    PE is one place where kids really feel they are not all created equally. Maybe a little bit of everything for everyone without concentrating on a couple of sports or a couple of kids? We had everything from gymnastics to football to javelin and high jump at my school as part of the regular program, boys and girls. Separate isn't fair. My kid wants to play football and she's offered dance instead!

  • rate this

    Comment number 438.

    While agreeing with the calls for more diversity in PE, I can't help wondering where we will find teachers sufficiently competent in such diversity, and where we will find the money to pay for it all, not forgetting the fact that there are children for whom nothing will suit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 437.

    "Picture this...Have everyone publicly share their work, and allow the more gifted ones to point, laugh, and otherwise humiliate the poor performers. Then give the poor ones some poetry ‘exercises’ to do at the side of the class as punishment, while the teacher then pays attention to and rewards those who are just naturally better."

    You mean that's not how English classes are?

  • rate this

    Comment number 436.

    As a year 11 girl just about to leave school, i think we should include more fitness related activities, however team sports are good too ( i generally enjoy them more). The majority of the girls in my year (and school) do not know how to work together as a team - which is seen as important by most employers.
    It is also noted that out of our class of 35 that around 20 of them sit out every lesson.

  • rate this

    Comment number 435.

    Fitness should be mandatory, how they achieve this should be tailored but not allow complete opt outs.
    Not enough role models, see too many poor role models (TOWIE etc).
    Too many excuses on all sides...

  • rate this

    Comment number 434.

    I hated sport. My teacher was a sadist, and I was ridiculed for being bad at it due to my asthma. However, not everything that is good for you is fun or pleasant, and I am not obese as an adult and I don't expect the World on a plate. We need more discipline and more excercise in schools. If you don't love doing it, tough. Young callow girls should not be being given the option to opt out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 433.

    I actually like sport, but was put off i and still am put off because of terrible lessons, bullying, lack of support/understanding and I am not confident as I don't have very good hand eye co-ordination. Would have loved the gym back then&Something other than bL88dy football/Lacross/Hockey!Sports comes in many forms! I love the gym now, Yoga, dancing &Cycling but forget team sports.

  • rate this

    Comment number 432.

    #417. Shaun_Walker

    Many PE refusniks (of my generation at least) would have been quite happy to keep fit - just not through participation in competitive and/or team sports (both in my case). I never understood (and still don't understand) the obssession with these aspects of PE. Just what is wrong with wanting to do solitary PE activities?

  • rate this

    Comment number 431.

    PE was always my least favourite subject at secondary school. A combination of asthma, nasty teachers who enjoyed ritual humiliation and awful activities (anyone for Hockey in the snow?) almost put me off sport for life. It wasn't until 2 years ago, 10 years after leaving school, that I took up running. Am now a certified running fanatic with a marathon under my belt - better late than never!

  • rate this

    Comment number 430.

    You're taking the Micky right? They tried mixed yachting at the school I went to but the keels kept getting caught in the potholes of the tarmac and the mothers kept going on about kids pinching sheets from the washing line for sails.

    BTW short of taking it in turns to hit each other over the head with a plank of wood, is there anythind more idiotic than rugby?

  • rate this

    Comment number 429.

    Not ‘female friendly’ sports. The only options being netball/hockey puts off any who dislike ‘girly’ sports. At school the perception is that boys get better versions of sports; we had netball, them basketball, rounders–softball and cricket. Let girls play the sports they want not the ones they ‘should’ play: football, rugby, basketball–muddy or contact sports-and see the uptake.

  • rate this

    Comment number 428.

    I hated PE at school, even though I was quite fit. Its just as bad for boys as girls I think. Different forms of exercise should be offered, if neccessary by bringing in outside instructors.Both boys and girls can play cricket but this is not often played in schools.

  • rate this

    Comment number 427.

    The irony of it all is that these teenage girls are so desperate to appear grown up and glamourous that they avoid sport at all costs, yet by the time they have reached the same age as their "glamourous" role models were then, they will look the same age as those people are now. Most of those celebrities spend 4 hours a day in the gym to look the way they do, it doesn't come for free.

  • rate this

    Comment number 426.

    I too hated PE and swimming. I was painfully thin and was called names when I had to wear those dreadful PE knickers and people saw how thin my legs were. If we had been allowed to wear track suits to perform PE or even short skirts, I would have felt far more comfortable and experienced less name-calling. It put me off sport and swimming for life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 425.

    The key issue here is "diversity". I hated ball sports but loved swimming. Effort should be made to maximise the range of sports available ie swimming, cycling, cross country as well as the traditional team sports


Page 19 of 41


More Health stories



Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

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.