15th November 2017
Daily summary of the latest news and opinions from the world of independent education bought to you by Education Advisers...
'We must enable girls to find a sport they love now so they will continue to make time for it in the future'
Caroline Jordan, headmistress at Headington School, Oxford, and vice president of the Girls’ Schools Association, writes about the importance of girls getting involved in sport.
The subject of girls’ participation in sport has raised its thorny head again. And so it should – it’s an incredibly important issue and one about which I feel particularly passionate.
This time, it’s a new survey by Women in Sport and the Youth Sport Trust and the results make for disheartening reading. Girls are less likely than boys to consider physical activity to be important, more likely to be put off due to lack of confidence, less likely to be interested in competitive PE lessons and less likely to do the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity a day.
It is a big problem. Sport and healthy physical activity is vital for ongoing good health and also has proven links to improved mental well-being. With the increased academic pressures which we know high-achieving girls can be more susceptible to, something as simple as getting out on the playing field for a match or completing a high-energy dance class can be the difference between coping and not coping.
There are lots of barriers to exercise and while some of them are relatively easy to break down, others prove tougher. That doesn’t mean we don’t need to try.
There are so many things to be gained from making exercise a habit – and one which you enjoy. As girls continue to grow up and become women, the pressures on their time will only increase. Now is the critical time to make sure girls are able to find a sport or activity they love so they will make time for it in future and continue to prioritise it.
Creating a happy sporting environment for every girl
According to recent research, one in four girls cite the pressure of school work and low confidence as obstacles to participating in sports compared to one in seven for boys - Julie Lodrick, headmistress at Kent College Pembury, responds.
One in four girls cite the pressure of school work and low confidence as obstacles to participating in sports and other exercise compared to one in seven for boys
The complex and often largely negative attitudes held by many girls towards sport and physical activity is an issue that schools have been attempting to address for years. Research has identified an alarming fall in the number of girls participating in sport. A recent study by the Women’s Sport Foundation showed that by age 14, girls are dropping out of sports at twice the rate of boys.
Physical Education in schools has been regularly criticised as inappropriate for many girls’ needs, with a narrow curriculum that is dominated by competitive team games. Throughout my teaching career, I have seen girls become reluctant exercisers simply because the curriculum they are offered in school is too narrow.
I believe that sport should be about encouraging and motivating young people to participate in physical activities that they can continue into their adult lives. When a curriculum focuses only on competitive and elite sports, it will not appeal to those girls who want to enjoy and benefit from participating without the need for an end result.
At the beginning of the year, Sir Ken Robinson wrote an article arguing that active play is the natural way that children learn, stating it is essential to their healthy growth and process, particularly during periods of rapid brain development.’ Throughout my career, I have seen the benefits of active participation, in sport and how it can have a positive impact on improved attention, memory, concentration and overall academic performance.
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