Getting more teenage girls active is the aim of a programme to be rolled out across parts of Northern Ireland following a successful four-month pilot with nearly 1,500 girls and 10 schools in the country.
Girls Active is an award-winning programme developed by charity, the Youth Sport Trust. In England, the Youth Sport Trust has delivered Girls Active in partnership with Women in Sport to over 200 schools since 2015. The programme aims to better engage adolescent girls in physical activity and improve attitudes towards physical education and school sport. Using a combination of marketing principles and youth leadership, it helps schools to review their existing culture and practice and to deliver an action plan tailored to their girls’ needs.
Thanks to continued funding from the Department for Communities and Sport Northern Ireland as part of the ‘Active Fit and Sporty’ project, Girls Active is now being delivered in partnership with Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, and Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council across 17 post primary schools.
The programme will be rolled out to 10 new schools on 16 November with 60 girls aged 11 to 15-years-old taking part in a Girls Active Inspiration Day at Craigavon Leisure Centre.
Ali Oliver, Chief Executive of the Youth Sport Trust, said:
“We believe that all young people should have the opportunity to achieve their potential in life through sport. The Girls Active programme is about developing girls’ leadership skills and empowering them to become positive role models who will actively engage and encourage their peers to become more active themselves.
“We know that Girls Active has made a positive change within the 10 schools involved in the initial pilot project in Northern Ireland - not only increasing levels of participation and improving attitudes towards PE and sport - but also improving their confidence to take part. We are delighted to continue to expand our reach alongside our partners.”
During the Girls Active Inspiration Day, the girls will participate in activities including dance, ultimate frisbee, boxercise and a series of team building exercises designed to develop the skills needed to work with others. The girls will also take part in a range of workshops focusing on leadership, marketing and action planning to better prepare them to take on a leadership role within their school.
As a result, the girls will then go back to their schools with the skills and confidence to encourage other girls within the school population to get active through improved marketing and the delivery of a range of new activities.
Ruth Holdaway, Chief Executive of Women in Sport, said: “The recent joint research carried out by Women in Sport and Youth Sport Trust examined the experiences of more than 25,000 secondary students in schools across Northern Ireland and England which revealed a large difference in attitudes to leading active lifestyles between boys and girls.
“Periods, the pressure of school work, low body confidence and a lack of support from teachers and parents are just some of the barriers girls are facing. With only 8% of girls meeting recommended daily exercise targets, girls are missing out on both the physical health and mental health benefits of being active, as well as the life skills that sport helps to develop.”
The Deputy Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, Councillor Sam Nicholson, added:
“We are delighted that the Girls Active programme has continued to build upon the success of the initial pilot programme last year within the Council area. The experiences these girls will have throughout the programme will have a genuine and significant impact both on themselves, and the girls that they will encourage to become more active.”
Chair of Leisure and Community Services, Alderman James Tinsley of Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council, commented: "Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council are pleased to be working alongside the Youth Sport Trust to pilot the Girls Active programme in our Council area. I am delighted and would like to thank the four Lisburn and Castlereagh schools for committing to the programme. Young females are often underrepresented in sport and physical activity and this programme helps address this imbalance by actively consulting with girls and engaging them in the design and delivery of their preferred activities and I wish them every success on their journey.”
Sport Northern Ireland Chief Executive Officer Antoinette McKeown said: “Sport Northern Ireland is delighted to be supporting the Girls Active programme as part of the Active Fit Sporty project, funded by Department for Communities. We are committed to growing female participation in sport and physical activity, particularly given traditionally high drop-off rates among girls during key life transitions. Key to getting more girls involved in sport is developing leaders and providing diverse opportunities to help people get active. That’s why we welcome Youth Sport Trust’s continued work with local schools to empower and engage pupils, and why we are so pleased to attend today’s wonderful event.”
To date, Girls Active in Northern Ireland has supported nearly 2,000 girls in PE, sport and physical activity with 20 schools receiving teacher training and resources.