Schools risk putting off girls from sport for life unless they embark on a major overhaul of PE provision by placing greater power into the hands of students, according to the Youth Sport Trust.
The body ran a pilot project which led to a dramatic shift in girls’ attitudes to PE once they were allowed to pick the activities on offer, rather than being forced to take part in various sports.
The move follows comments from the head of Sport England, Jennie Price, earlier this month who said that girls should be given time to dry their hair and “reconstruct” themselves after PE.
The Youth Sport Trust ran a 12-month pilot involving 20 schools nationwide. The schools each chose a small group of “young leaders”, who were asked to identify girls who did not take part in sport and find out what would make them interested.
One school organised a taster day when girls were able to try out cheerleading, boxercise, Zumba and dodgeball. The pupils chose Zumba, and a lunchtime club now attracts 30-40 girls each week. Other schools set up cheerleading groups and a girls’-only swimming club.
Surveys taken at the start and end of the 12-month pilot showed that the number who looked forward to PE lessons almost doubled from 38 per cent to 71 per cent, while 73 per cent said they liked the way they felt after exercise, compared with 41 per cent previously.
The project's findings also appear to be at odds with Ofsted's chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw who last week called for a greater focus on competitive sport in state schools.
“Many girls are simply not interested in traditional PE and sport and unless schools give their students a voice, and ask them what they would like to take part in, they risk putting them off physical activity for life,” said Alison Oliver, the trust’s managing director.
“If you involve girls in the process of deciding how PE and physical activity should be delivered then you can influence their attitudes.”
A trust spokeswoman said all schools should take this approach to get more girls to take part in sport. Pupils were more likely to listen to peers they saw as role models, she added.