Girls 'Step Up for Change' at Aylesbury launch event

Girls Active expands through Stepping Up for Change to reach even more girls to get active and enjoy physical activity

A new programme which will encourage 14 to 18-year-olds to inspire and guide younger, primary-aged girls to love PE, sport and physical activity and set them up for future healthy and happy lives has launched in Aylesbury today.

Following the success of the Girls Active programme which launched in 2013, developed by the Youth Sport Trust and delivered in partnership with This Girl Can and supported by Women in Sport, the programme is now evolving to target even younger girls and take a long-term approach to engaging girls.

Funded by Sport England, Stepping Up For Change launched on 5 February at Stoke Mandeville Stadium and sees teenage girls already involved in Girls Active act as a bridge between inspiring primary-aged girls to keep active and embrace PE as they transition to secondary school. 

Girls Active research released in 2017 shows that fewer girls place importance on being active as they get older, with only 59% of 11-14-year-olds stating that physical activity is currently ‘an important part of my life’. This becomes even more pronounced when looking at the results for older girls aged 14-16 years (42%). 

Wendy Taylor, development manager at Youth Sport Trust for Girls Active, said:

By the age of seven, girls are already less active than boys and this disparity widens as they move from childhood into adolescence - this is evidenced in our joint research with Women in Sport. 

We believe that by using the teenage girls already engaged with Girls Active to act as mentors to younger girls and capturing them early by taking the programme into primary schools, this is the best chance we have of teaching girls at a young age the benefits of physical activity and helping them to feel empowered. We truly believe this programme will be the answer to changing the record for girls’ participation and improving their overall wellbeing for good.

The structure of Stepping Up For Change will see eight festivals take place across the UK between February and March, inviting a select number of Girls Active ‘GLAM’ ambassadors from best practice secondary schools. The girls will then receive training from national children’s charity, the Youth Sport Trust and inspirational athlete mentors, for the GLAMs to impart this knowledge to feeder primary-aged girls at the event. Each GLAM will then be paired with a primary school for the academic year to mentor and support younger girls as they progress.

Isobel Wilcox (17) from Slated Row School is one of the Girls Active peer mentors for Stepping Up for Change. She also won the Wellness Transformation category in the 2017 Girls Active awards.

She said: 

I wanted to get involved in Stepping Up for Change because I want to inspire more young girls to get active, have confidence in themselves and get them out of their comfort zones. I want to give to other girls what Girls Active has given to me.

Most girls are put off getting active and involved because they care what boys and other people are going to think or are self concious of how they look. I really want to help change that.

It is hoped that around 600 girls will be reached through the UK-wide programme from a mixture of secondary and primary schools.

Heather Smith, senior innovation manager at Women in Sport, said:

Girls are missing out on the physical and wellbeing benefits of being active as well as the life skills that sport helps to develop. Good habits need to be established early so that more girls grow into healthy and happy adults. 

We know from our research that the real influencers for girls are relatable role models. We’re really excited about the Girls Active programme being extending into primary schools. This peer to peer support has the potential to be a game changer; redressing the balance - getting more girls active and enjoying sport. Through sport we are encouraging and supporting girls to reach their full potential.

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