Review PE guidance after Lionesses win, says heads’ union

Government accused of failing to ensure girls have equal access to football in PE lessons
3rd August 2022, 5:20pm

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Review PE guidance after Lionesses win, says heads’ union

https://www.tes.com/magazine/news/general/review-pe-guidance-after-lionesses-win-says-heads-union
Chloe Kelly

It would be a “good idea” for the government to review guidance on what sporting activities schools should offer boys and girls in the wake of the England women’s football team’s win in the Women’s Euro 2022 final, a headteachers’ union has said.

The Association of School and College Leaders’ (ASCL) comments come as the government faces calls from Labour, as well as the Lionesses, to ensure girls have equal access to football at school.

Existing government guidance says that when there are single-sex teams - such as a boys’ football team - then a “comparable sporting activity” should be provided to the opposite sex, but it does not define this any further.

The ASCL has said schools have to “interpret that guidance while also taking into account the interests of their students”.

The organisation’s director of policy Julie McCulloch said: “It would be a good idea to review this guidance and make sure it is fit for purpose.

“The superb achievement of the England women’s football team is bound to result in a huge wave of enthusiasm among girls and young women to play football, and we are sure that schools will welcome this with open arms and respond accordingly.”

Ms McCulloch also said it was “essential” that the government provided improved funding for schools so that they could better afford the cost of sporting activities.

The response comes after Labour’s shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson wrote to her government counterpart James Cleverly today demanding an “equal access guarantee” for school sport off the back of England’s 2-1 win against Germany on Sunday.

Ms Phillipson wrote that she was “seriously concerned” that the Department for Education was “refusing” to support equal access to sport in schools.

She wrote: “As secretary of state, will you seize on this historic moment and set out an ‘Equal Access Guarantee’, so girls and boys have equal opportunity to play and enjoy different sports in school?

“This must start with replacing the department’s outdated commitment that pupils will have access to a ‘comparable sporting activity’. This limits the options of boys and girls and does nothing to break down traditional access barriers. The government should be playing an active role in building a world where no child is excluded from a sport their schoolmates are playing.”

While football is the most popular team sport for young people in England, only a third of girls aged 5 to 18 participate each week, according to research by the Football Association (FA).

Just 63 per cent of schools in England offer equal football coaching to boys and girls, the FA found.

But the national celebration of the Lionesses’ 2-1 win over Germany in the final last week at Wembley Stadium has prompted calls for change.

Mary Earps, the England goalkeeper, said there was “no doubt” that football “absolutely should be on the curriculum”.

“I think if you could ask the squad what they would want, it’s access to football in school for young girls… I really would like to see more girls at school being able to play,” she told BBC Breakfast this morning.

The Lionesses have also written a joint letter to both Conservative leadership candidates - Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak - asking them to ensure that all girls have access to a minimum of two hours per week of PE.

The DfE has today published a blog about PE and access to football on the curriculum, rebutting Ms Phillipson’s claims and setting out the current approach.

It states: ”Where schools choose to offer different sports to girls and boys, for example, to respond to demand, we expect them to make every effort to offer a comparable sport which uses similar tactics and has similar objectives, ie, attacking and defending strategies.”

The department is also funding a three-year programme to give thousands of girls access to competitive sports opportunities, the blog says.

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