Last week, the Youth Sport Trust’s Chief Executive, Ali Oliver MBE, gave evidence to the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, as part of their inquiry into Women’s Sport.
Alongside colleagues from the cross-sector National Sector Partners Group (Huw Edwards, UKactive and Cllr Liz Green, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Culture, Tourism and Sport board), Ali answered questions from Members of Parliament about how to provide more opportunities for girls and young women to take part in sport and physical activity.
Ali’s evidence drew on the Youth Sport Trust’s experience in delivering interventions to encourage more girls and young women to be physically active, alongside our research to understand attitudes towards participation and barriers to being active. In a wide-ranging discussion, Ali highlighted:
- Our recent Girls Active survey which showed that the participation gap between girls and boys is about 5%, when you compare it against the UK’s Chief Medical Officer’s guidance of 60 active minutes a day, but the enjoyment gap is around 20%. Unfortunately, girls are not enjoying PE for many reasons, including lack of self-confidence, body image and being watched or judged by others.
- The importance of working in partnership. As an example, the Barclays Girls’ Football in Schools programme has been designed with the FA to try to promote equal access to football for girls within and beyond the curriculum. Around the Euros, there was a real spike in interest from girls wanting to play and, equally, a real interest from teachers wanting help to improve their skills to deliver football.
- There used to be a school sport partnership network embracing every single primary, secondary and special school in the country in a collective, locally driven sports development plan with a specialist sports college at the hub. These hubs were exploring, experimenting and innovating on everything from women and girls’ participation to disability and the engagement of other under-represented groups. The Government is spending more today on physical education and school sport than , but there is just no strategic investment. Over 10 years, that system provided the fastest improving schools in the English education system, including GCSE English and maths, and also shifted the proportion of children doing two hours of PE a week from 25% to 91%.
The session is part of a broader inquiry that sees the cross-party Committee exploring the challenges women’s sporting organisations face in growing audiences and revenues, and what needs to be done to improve parity between men and women’s sport.
Following evidence from multiple experts, the Committee will produce a report that can include recommendations for Ministers at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and other stakeholders to act on.