Olympic badminton star Gail Emms is calling on schools to use London 2012 as a catalyst for getting more girls involved in PE and sport.
The Olympic silver medallist and Youth Sport Trust ambassador is supporting Lloyds TSB National School Sport Week which will see thousands of schools across the country celebrating sport this summer [27th June - 1st July].
Lloyds TSB National School Sport Week uses the anticipation of the London 2012 Games to inspire pupils to try new sports, but to also pledge to achieve a personal best in an Olympic or Paralympic sport, individually, with their class or club and at every level.
Gail regularly visits schools to see firsthand the transformation there has been in school sport in recent years. Figures from the latest independent School Sport Survey show the number of young people taking part in PE and sport continues to increase. However, they also show there are still fewer girls taking part in sport than boys.
Speaking during a visit to Sedgefield Community College in County Durham today to lend her support to an event that is engaging more than 70 girls in a range of sports including handball, boxing, sitting volleyball and table tennis, Gail said:
"Schools have made such amazing improvements in the quality and quantity of sport they deliver for pupils in recent years and they should be immensely proud of this - but as a female myself, I know what barriers there can be for teenage girls.
"Girls can be very body conscious when they're at school so it can be simple things like making the PE kit more fashionable or making the changing rooms a bit more inviting and appealing that will help them become more interested in sport.
"Lloyds TSB National School Sport Week is about all school pupils taking part in Olympic and Paralympic sports, trying new sports and achieving their personal best. I would like to see schools being really creative about how they engage girls, to show them how exciting and fun sport can be."
Sarah Price, who has organised the event for the girls, said:
"We have had some tremendous success in recent years in engaging more girls in sport in Durham. Lloyds TSB National School Sport Week is a brilliant opportunity to introduce all young people to new sports and encourage them all to become more physically active and achieve their personal best."
In 2010, Lloyds TSB National School Sport week inspired 14,000 schools and five million young people across Britain to try a new Olympic or Paralympic sport for the first time. As a result of the week, Britain saw a significant uplift in regular sports participation and young people going on to join sports clubs in and outside school.*
Throughout the week in 2011, schools will also be able to get even closer to the Games, as Lloyds TSB, official London 2012 Partner and a Presenting Partner to the Olympic Torch Relay, will be giving registered schools the opportunity to carry the Olympic Flame in the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay and win tickets to the Olympic and Paralympic Games.