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Getting girls back into sport

Despite the high profile sporting success by England’s Lionesses at the Woman’s Football World Cup, research shows more than half of young girls are giving up on sport before they reach secondary school.  The reasons include a lack in body confidence or not feeling strong enough to compete against, or in front of the boys.

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A school in West Cornwall is now working with mums and their daughters to try and overcome these barriers and to encourage more young girls and their carers to get active.  Alverton Primary School in Penzance has launched a number of girl’s only teams, along with classes for mums and their daughters and is now working with other local schools to establish girl only tournaments.

PE Co-Ordinator at Alverton Primary in Penzance, Abbie Dennison, said: “We questioned all of our girls in the school about their interest in sport and the three main barriers that came back were; they were embarrassed to play in front of the boys, they didn’t like the kit and they didn’t feel confident enough to take part or to try new sports.  So we set up a tea of GALS (Girls Active Leaders in Sports), who became role models for the other girls in the school.”

The scheme works by encouraging mums and dads to take part in sports with their daughters, along with a series of girls only clubs.  The result has been a dramatic number of young girls taking part in variety of sports from cricket to netball. 

Abbie continued: “In our girl’s only sessions we build on confidence, self-esteem and the essential skills you need to succeed in sport. We have also put on a variety of festivals and activities for mums and their daughters outside of school; this gives them an opportunity to try something new and to have some fun.

“The girls have absolutely loved the work we have been doing and they are now desperate to represent the school in a range of sports, which is just fantastic.  But it’s not just the girls, we have had a fantastic reaction from the parents as well with over 60 people; mums, aunties, cousins, sisters and staff here, all signing up for the Race for Life. We’ve also done mums and daughter’s street dancing classes and “get back into netball” sessions.”

A recent survey for Sport England showed mums would prioritise family, cooking and housework over keeping fit, while 61 percent said exercising made them worry they were neglecting their responsibilities.

The survey also showed Attitudes towards physical activity in teenagers showed that only 45 per cent of girls see the relevance of the skills they learn in physical education classes to their lives, as compared with 60 per cent of boys. Simultaneously, the research also shows that schoolwork pressures, low confidence and body image issues are much larger barriers to taking part in physical activity for girls than boys.

Head Teacher at Alverton Primary, Martin Higgs added: “I am delighted at the reaction this has had, not only amongst our girls, but with their parents. We are now hoping to forge stronger links with local clubs that have good junior sections which will allow our young people to develop their skills.  We are not looking to create elite athletes - what we are aiming to do is to increase participation in sport.”

Cabinet member for Children, Wellbeing and Health at Cornwall Council, Sally Hawken, said: “According to the World Health Organisation, 84 per cent of girls aged 5 to 15 in England do not get their recommended 60 minutes of activity a day.  It has been proven that being active for just 20 minutes can make you happier, healthier and increase your energy levels – And I think the work being done by Alverton Primary is excellent.”

Cornwall Council’s Healthy Schools Team has lots of resources for schools keen to increase physical activity levels, including ideas on how to get young girls more involved in sport. 

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