Olympic and World cycling champion Victoria Pendleton today welcomed 165 girls to Loughborough University for the inaugural Youth Sport Trust Girls Active Camp.
Funded by Sport England and run in partnership with Women in Sport, the camp seeks to increase sport and physical activity levels amongst girls aged 14 - 16.
Pendleton, who today officially joins the Youth Sport Trust as an Ambassador, welcomes the initiative that empowers girls to take more responsibility over their own health and wellbeing.
The girls will participate in a series of practical sessions, looking at how they can become role models for other girls and inspire them to participate, lead and volunteer in sport. The sessions will be interactive and practical, and challenge why they and their peers are less active than they could be.
She said: "I believe in the power of sport to develop successful, well-rounded young people. The Youth Sport Trust Girls Active programme is such a great initiative, I feel honoured to be involved with it.
Sport has played such an important part in my life and I have learned so much through being involved with sport since I was at school. The lessons you learn growing up are vital and stay with you for life. I want these girls to understand the importance of being active for their life and their health, and how much fun it is.
Findings from a one-year Girls Active pilot which gave girls more say on how PE and sport should be delivered in schools to make it more appealing 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 has nearly doubled - from 38% to 71%
- The percentage of girls that felt positive about school rose from 24% to 78%.
Youth Sport Trust Chief Executive Ali Oliver said: "Girls Active seeks to tackle the lower levels of participation by girls in PE and sport. We know there are a range of reasons why girls can be put off taking part in PE and physical activity. Through Girls Active we aim to empower, inspire and engage girls in addressing these barriers.
"We are delighted to work with Sport England, Women in Sport and Loughborough University on this camp. Last year's pilot programme demonstrated how together, by providing girls with leadership skills and the opportunity to make a real difference, they can."
The Girls Active camp comes as Sport England announces a further £3.14million of National Lottery funding for school sport, some of which will go towards getting girls active as part of the national This Girl Can campaign.
The funding will go to the Youth Sport Trust to deliver programmes designed to keep young people active when they move from primary to secondary school and as they leave school. It will also be targeted at getting disabled young people to become leaders in sport.
Sport England Director of Community Sport Mike Diaper said: "Although women are most active when they're younger, that happens to be where the biggest gender divide exists. It's also where sporting habits are formed, in some cases for life.
"That's why it's so important that girls get a great experience of PE and sport at school. That includes everything from good coaching to making sure they feel comfortable and confident in that environment. The Girls Active pilot shows that this can be done when girls' needs are prioritised.
"Through this funding, we're also focusing on keeping all children active. All of the evidence shows that the big moments of change in a young person's life are exactly when they're most likely to change their sporting habits. So it's vital that we focus our attention on these to keep them active."
Women in Sport Chief Executive Ruth Holdaway said: "Working in partnership with the Youth Sport Trust to deliver the Girls Active programme and camp is a really important part of our work. We want to transform sport for the benefit of every woman and girl in the UK and the Girls Active programme gives us an ideal platform to do just that.
"We know that girls begin to be less active in sport far earlier than boys. Our aim through Girls Active is to break down some of the barriers to inspire girls not only to participate but to lead and volunteer in sport too.
"We are excited about working with the Youth Sport Trust, Sport England and Loughborough University on this camp and look forward to continuing our partnership in the coming years."
Through the camp, the girls will be tasked with returning to their own schools to engage 50 more young girls to participate in sport and physical activity within their school.