Engaging girls in PE

Girls engaging in PE lesson which has exciting PE planning

During girls senior years of education, there is a significant drop off in their participation in PE lessons.  Furthermore, there is an even more substantial decline in participation in out of hour’s school sport.  According to the Women’s Sport and Fitness foundation by the age of 14 only 12% of girls are active enough.

Girls participation in PE lessons

During my time as a secondary school PE teacher, I saw first-hand the reduction in girls’ participation from years 7 to 11.  Girls were entering secondary school engaged. However, this dwindled for a significant number of students over time.

It could be argued that secondary school is to blame, and there is a large amount of research that states we are not teaching the activities that girls want to participate in.  I think that this is only partially true because a lot of pupils don’t experience a wide enough range of activities until they reach secondary school.  For example, hockey, only a highly motivated pupil enjoys their first ever hockey lesson on a freezing January morning!

Window of opportunity

Children’s physical skills are hard-wired by the time they are seven years old.  “Introducing the skills beyond the age of 7 will prove more challenging as their cognitive ability has developed to a point where the ‘can’t do’ attitude ignites” (Sport Wales, 2016).   There is no substitute for early, positive experiences of PE. So exposing girls to as wide a variety of sports and activities as possible throughout their informative years (0-7) is essential.

What can we do?

By working together, primary and secondary schools can map the transition from KS2 to KS3 and beyond.  Primary schools can plan their curriculum to hit as many activity areas as possible.  As well is early curriculum experiences, children must have opportunities to take part in extracurricular clubs.  This involvement in out of hours activity fosters a lifestyle of physical activity as natural and essential.

Also, both sets of schools can consider joining up their PE planning, in particular from the feeder primary schools.  Finding out which sports and activities the girls enjoy in primary school and immediately engaging them in these upon entering secondary school, will go some way to help.  A young girl is more likely to commit to PE if their early engagement in Year 7 is positive.

To find out more ways to inspire your girls to stay active visit the This Girl Can website.


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