Engaging Girls in Sport

Working in schools we get to see all sorts of children – those that are engaged, as well as those that are not and of course those that shine and excel amongst their peers. This is true of all subjects, but PE is an area that can represent this most sharply. Sadly, it is also the subject that can see the most deterioration in the love of the subject.

As children get older their attitudes can change dramatically towards PE and sport, and the love of the subject can fade as body image, self-esteem and hormones come to the fore. Unfortunately research suggests this trend is much more prevalent with girls meaning that a large majority of girls are turning away from PE and sport at a young age.

The Health Survey for England highlights that by the age of 7, girls are already less active than boys, and this disparity widens as they move from childhood into adolescence. Further research from Girlguiding states that the biggest drop-off in girls’ participation in sport occurs during the transition from primary to secondary school. The reason behind the change in attitude is a combination of factors, but the main elements are disruption to friendship groups and declining body confidence.

Get Girls Active

Back in 2013, the Youth Sport Trust wanted to address this alarming trend and set up Girls Active. They worked with 20 secondary schools across a 12-month period to run a pilot, which was aimed at tackling the negative attitudes that girls have towards their body image, improving their attitude towards PE, sport and physical activity, and to work with schools to make sport more relevant to girls’ lives. 

The pilot was a success, and Girls Active have been making a positive difference ever since. Schools involved with the programme say that it improves girls’ attitude to school, raises their levels of confidence and self-esteem, and most importantly increases levels of participation in sport amongst girls.

The Principles

According to the Youth Sport Trust, there are six key principles that underpin effective practice in engaging girls in PE, sport and physical activities.

  1. Take a long-term approach to engaging girls
  2. Put developing self-confidence at the heart of PE
  3. Make PE and sport relevant to girls’ lives
  4. Recognise the power of friends to drive progress
  5. Develop role models for the future
  6. Empower girls to design and deliver PE and Sport.

Try exploring ways to embed these principles within your PE curriculum to help motivate and engage all children, in particular girls.

Gender representation is a big deal, and with more and more females being recognised in professional sport and supported by the media, the profile of female sport has never been higher. It is vital that education keeps this going by working to engage all children and young people in sport.

Useful Links

Support the growth of participation in sport in your setting through quality sports resources – view our range: www.consortiumeducation.com/education/sports-and-games

Youth Sport Trust: Get Girls Active: https://www.youthsporttrust.org/girls-active

Health Survey for England (2015) – ww.gov.uk/government/statistics/health-survey-for-england-health-survey-for-england-2015