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Making school sport more attractive to girls

How to even the playing field with lesson content, facilities and kit

Posted by Stephanie Broad | June 20, 2016 | School life

From forgotten kits to fake ankle sprains, school students offer up no-end of excuses to avoid partaking in the dreaded weekly PE lesson. An unwillingness to participate has long plagued the subject of physical education, and the latest figures suggest that the problem is more prevalent among girls — with just 31% of 14 year-old girls saying they get regular exercise compared to 50% of boys.

Given that child obesity rates are rising in the UK, sport and physical education is of vital importance and could help to lessen the likelihood of children developing serious health problems in the future. Thus, schools should be doing all they can to encourage their young scholars to take a more active and positive approach to the subject. 

To help schools and academies better engage their female students in PE, here we offer several tips on how to make sport more attractive to girls. 

Lesson content and structure

We all know just how important physical activity is, but it’s not realistic to assume that all school pupils will share a collective love of the same sport, game or activity. Where one student excels in a specific area, others may be less competent, creating a culture where some flourish and others fail. This can ultimately lead to discouragement, deterring the students from participating in specific lessons or PE in general. 

Like so many subjects, PE must be constantly reinvented and modernised to echo current trends and interests, else it’ll fall way below what students expect from the subject. By including students in the lesson planning process, asking their opinion on the activities they’re interested in, and affording them flexibility when it comes to selecting which classes to take part in and not, it’s more likely that they’ll take a more proactive approach to the subject. 

Equipment, facilities and environment 

While investing in better sports equipment and facilities will undoubtedly have a positive impact, it’s important to consider the wider picture when kitting out your school with the latest in PE technologies. 

Last year, head of Sport England, Jennie Price made a speech to school leaders suggesting that schools and colleges must create the right environment so that girls feel comfortable before, during and after participating in sports and PE. In her speech, Ms Price said that many young girls feel the need to “reconstruct themselves” after exercise, and suggested that by installing simple things like hairdryers, plug sockets and private cubicles, schools can ensure that girls are given the comfortable space they need to feel ready for the day ahead following a PE lesson — subsequently making them more likely to take part. 

Schools must incorporate a kit that empowers, not hinders, girls in sport 

The right PE kit 

According to a recent study published by The Independent, half of all girls at secondary schools avoid taking part in PE due to the discomfort of wearing their assigned PE kit. This follows a similar report in which a quarter of girls admitted to not wanting to take part in sport because their PE kit makes them feel ugly — suggesting that PE kits are in need of a complete overhaul to ensure they’re comfortable, practical and stylish enough for young girls to wear. 

Commenting on the issue of redesigning school PE kits, SWI Schoolwear suggest that the traditional ‘short skirt’ PE uniform is no longer adequate, and that schools must incorporate a kit that empowers, not hinders, girls in sport. 

They said: “By making simple design changes to the traditional school uniform, young girls will feel empowered to take a more proactive approach to sport and PE. Even simple things like material choice, fit and good ventilation can make a huge difference, ensuring that all students feel comfortable and relaxed when stepping into their sportswear.”

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