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 704.

    @699. Diddleypete

    "How quick to condem, exactly the mentality of the people you complain about"

    I don't think I was complaining about any "people". I was saying that moaning about not trying doesn't work when it looks like you haven't tried yourself.

    "I will always try to improve, & encourage others to do so to"

    Might I suggest you start with learning the difference between to and too then.

  • rate this

    Comment number 703.

    It definitely depends on the sport. Just because we're girls we don't want to necessarily play netball, hockey and rounders. When I was at school my friends and I campaigned to be able to play Rugby, needless to say we were turned down. Years later I still hate those silly sports we were forced to play but I love martial arts and other unfeminine contact sports.

  • rate this

    Comment number 702.

    How about introducing ballet and gymnastics (like in the States - well they have cheerleading, but still). These two sports my daughter loves, but not being a part of the current school curriculum we have to attend after hours and it's an additional finance. It's a no-brainer. Start teaching ballet and gymnastics. Done deal and the girls are happy!

  • rate this

    Comment number 701.

    I hated PE with a passion. Being bigger than most of my peers didn't help, the bullying in the changing rooms wasn't challenged by the teachers ever. I desperately wanted to play rugby but was refused that opportunity at school despite the boys being allowed to do it. I took a stand & refused to do PE. The only teacher ever to have encouraged me was John Brandon, sadly he rarely got to teach me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 700.

    @687. Diddleypete

    You obviously went to school in a very different world to me. As 685. littlesallyracket says, trying and failing will be viewed as much worse by your peers, than not trying at all. Sadly (and this isn't just in sport) today's youth view effort of any kind as geeky, or nerdy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 699.

    How quick to condem, exactly the mentality of the people you complain about. It made no point what so ever & just proved how little some people can be. But I will always try to improve, & encourage others to do so to, even if they will never reach the top, but in trying they prove their worth. Perhaps you should take note!

  • rate this

    Comment number 698.

    At secondary school I believe PE should have 2 distinct roles 1. to foster skills in competitive sport for those that are keen and 2. to encourage lifelong activity. If we can offer a transition from school PE to adult classes then that is going to go a long way in achieving 2.

  • rate this

    Comment number 697.

    Re Girls/Women not doing PE/exercise because they get sweaty, Boys/Men get sweaty. Girls/Woman "PERSPIRE".

  • rate this

    Comment number 696.


    Given that the current standard path into eduction, for teachers is though a Masters level postgraduate certificate of education, I think there may be a problem with your assessment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 695.

    @691. Diddleypete

    I agree that in normal circumstances correcting someone's grammar is a cheap shot however in this case it made my point.

    Moaning about kids not wanting to try and rabidly spouting about some "dumbing down" leftist conspiracy when you yourself can't be bothered to learn how to write like a grown up makes your point redundant in my view.

  • rate this

    Comment number 694.

    Re- Girls/Women not doing PE/exercise because they get sweaty, Boys/Men sweat, Girls/Women "PERSPIRE". ( it sounds better ).

  • rate this

    Comment number 693.

    Well I played on a school sports team, but genrally hated PE or what ever it was called, mostly due to the PE Teacher mentality, I think it may have improved, but the IQ of PE Teachers is still on the low side.

  • 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 691.

    Ahh, grammatical correction, the last salvation of someone who has no reasonable argument & tries to score cheap points!
    Also sarcasm is the lowest form of wit!
    Funny really, by pointing out errors & making fun of them, are you not as bad as the "bullies" in the playground?

  • 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 689.

    Just as I have suspected all along - women want equality, but only as long as it's "women-friendly" equality!

  • rate this

    Comment number 688.

    "I seem to remember that if you tried, even if no good, occasionally you got it right & was appreciated"

    Lucky you. Clearly your school was a lot nicer than most people's.

    Shame you didn't spend as much time concentrating on your spelling and grammar as you did on cross-country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 687.

    I seem to remember that if you tried, even if no good, occasionally you got it right & was appreciated. If you quit, hid & never tried you did nothing right & got abused! Parents should play a big part to, tell your kids to keep trying & the rewards come later, allow them to be quitters & you ruin them for life!

  • rate this

    Comment number 686.

    @681. Diddleypete

    From the *gist* of *your* post I'm afraid that *you're" not very good at spelling or grammar. How ironic as "dumbing down" seems to upset you so much.

    I suggest that you try harder, confident that your efforts will be appreciated.

  • rate this

    Comment number 685.

    "People generally respect "tryers". Even if you are no good, if you make the effort you will be appreciated"

    @Diddleypete - Clearly you're viewing school PE lessons through rose-tinted glasses. At most schools, trying really hard and still being rubbish is far more likely to get you bullied than deliberately not making an effort and acting like you don't care.


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