Are girls at risk of becoming disenfranchised from PE in schools?

There’s been a lot of discussion in the media about this lately, following a recent report from the All Party Parliamentary Group on A Fit And Healthy Childhood with regards to Physical Education.

Among the many recommendations made in the report, there was one in particular that struck me. This was a recommendation for “The restructuring of physical education programmes for girls, providing a comprehensive offer and choice that is not dominated by participation in competitive sports.” Now this for me is key – when I was a primary school pupil, I was not competitive. I’m not a competitive person by nature and I didn’t like competitive sports. I disliked team games and I didn’t like the idea that someone might tell me off for dropping the ball or not passing to the right person. It just wasn’t my thing – I was physically fit, slim and healthy, loved to move but I was more into non-competitive activities like dance.

We didn’t really have dance lessons at our primary school when I was a pupil – the class teachers would put on a BBC tape with instructions to follow, but that was about it. Fortunately my parents were able to provide me with out-of-school opportunities to dance so I could still pursue my preferred method of keeping fit and healthy. I really did shy away from competitive sports in school – it would be my worst nightmare not to be picked for the school netball team! I’m sure I can’t have been the only pupil at my primary school who felt that way.

Coming back to the report in question, the suggestion in the media is that girls in particular are at risk of actually becoming disenfranchised from physical activity due to the government’s current emphasis on competitive team sports. It is fantastic that schools have the primary PE premium and it is really encouraging that the funding is set to be doubled next year, but it is my professional opinion that until we address this issue and all schools provide a greater variety of offerings when it comes to physical activity, we will continue to risk alienating our least active pupils and girls in particular. This is not about gender stereotyping by the way – this is the state of play in UK schools according to this study put together by leading academics, industry professionals and MPs.

So what can we do? We can put a greater emphasis on physical activity as a whole by providing opportunities in PE that meet the interests of girls in a more personalised way. We can add variety to our extra-curricular provision by utilising outside providers of activities such as yoga or dance in addition to the usual sports clubs on offer. We can bring in specialists to up-skill class teachers in delivering new forms of physical activity during curriculum time and as the APPG suggest in their study, we all need to ensure we do not “undermine a child’s confidence and inhibit them from participating according to their own pace and individual needs in PE programmes.”

For support in implementing a greater variety of physical activities into your existing PE and School Sports programmes, visit¬†¬†now for a free ‘How to engage more pupils in PE through dance’ taster lesson at your primary school (limited locations and dates available).