Give girls a voice or risk putting them off PE and sport for life, warns Youth Sport Trust

Schools risk putting girls off PE and sport for life if they don't give them a voice in how the subject should be delivered, Alison Oliver, Managing Director of the Youth Sport Trust, has warned.

Pilot study shows body confidence and attitude to PE boosted by giving girls a say

Schools risk putting girls off PE and sport for life if they don't give them a voice in how the subject should be delivered, Alison Oliver, Managing Director of the Youth Sport Trust, has today warned.

It comes as the Youth Sport Trust reveals the findings of Girls Active - a one-year pilot programme that gave girls more say on how PE and sport should be delivered in schools to make it more appealing.

The pilot aimed to tackle the negative attitude that girls have towards their body image, improve their attitude towards PE, and to work with schools to make sport more relevant to girls' lives.

The results of the 12-month pilot have been released during the Youth Sport Trust's flagship National School Sport Week (23-27 June), with thousands of young people across the country taking part in more sport to celebrate the week.

Key findings from the pilot include:

  • Girls who are happy with the way their body looks more than doubled from 25% to 56%
  • Girls feeling very unhappy about the way their bodies look reduced by more than half from 37% to 16%
  • The number of girls who look forward to their PE lessons nearly doubled - from 38% to 71%
  • The percentage of girls that felt positive about school rose from 24% to 78%
  • 73% 'like the way they feel' after physical activity compared with 41% previously
  • The percentage of girls who 'look forward' to extracurricular sport has risen from 35% to 66%

20 schools across the country were involved in the pilot where teachers and female students worked closely to establish an understanding as to what motivates them to take part in PE and sport; developing an action plan based on their feedback on how it should be delivered.

In addition, some of the girls became role models within school, setting up leadership groups which focused on how they could make PE and physical activity more appealing.

One school in the pilot has seen a group of girls involved in getting three new girls' specific clubs added to the extracurricular timetable; boxercise, football and basketball. Another set up a cheerleading group which went on to compete at a national event in London, finishing second in their category.

Alison Oliver, Managing Director of the Youth Sport Trust, said:

"Many girls are simply not interested in traditional PE and sport and unless schools give their students a voice, and ask them what they would like to take part in, they risk putting them off physical activity for life.

"Participation levels in physical activity among girls are worryingly low. If we are to get girls more active; developing an interest in PE and sport, and a confidence to take part, then we must work with them to understand what appeals to them.

"The health benefits are obvious, but equally important for teenage girls is the positive impact that physical activity can have on emotional health and wellbeing, overcoming low self-esteem and reducing levels of anxiety.

"When girls don't feel confident about themselves they are far less likely to be comfortable taking part in PE and sport. Through this pilot we have discovered that if you involve girls in the process of deciding how PE and physical activity should be delivered then you can influence their attitudes."

In response to the findings of the pilot the Youth Sport Trust is:

  • Aiming to get 100,000 girls more active and 2,000 involved in leadership by 2018
  • Calling for all schools to review and refresh their PE provision and extracurricular sport for girls for the new academic year, involving girls in the process
  • To offer free guidance and support to all schools in the next academic year in how to make PE and sport more appealing to girls
  • Encouraging schools and young people are encouraged to tweet their support using the twitter hashtag #girlsactive

Chief Executive of the Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation, Ruth Holdaway said: "'Changing the Game for Girls', a research and a pilot study carried out by the Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation, has shown that girls respond more positively to all aspects of PE and school sport if they feel they've been consulted and involved in designing it. It's great to see that work being done by the Youth Sport Trust is also proving this to be a successful approach, not only for engaging girls with PE and school sport but also in improving attitudes towards body image and their overall sense of wellbeing."

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