Asian girls get the PE bug

19th May 2006 at 01:00
Pupils' opinions play a big part in developing sports and PE at Bordesley Green girls' school, Birmingham, an inner city 11 to 16 comprehensive.

It's hard to imagine a less favoured place for enthusing girls about sports. Bordesley Green has no playing field and is hemmed in on three sides by industry and dense housing. What little play area there is has been described by inspectors as "a backyard", although it has been resurfaced since Ofsted last visited.

But things are changing. A new sports hall, which opened early this year, makes the prospect of games much more appealing for the school's 620 students, 97 per cent of whom are from Pakistani or Bangladeshi backgrounds. Yet much of the growing enthusiasm is down to a cultural appreciation of what is wanted, based on good communications between pupils, staff and the local community.

"Improvements are the result of vision and teamwork," says Clare Considine, the headteacher. "A women's study group of around 50 parents, relatives and friends has been most valuable in helping us."

Pupils increasingly shape provision themselves. "Their views are very important," says Katherine Green, head of expressive arts. "We use various means, such as a sports forum which has run for a couple of years, to ascertain what they like and what they don't like."

Many girls come to Bordesley Green with a limited knowledge of team games, says Ms Considine. "They're also hesitant about wearing PE kit - there are issues of modesty and the kit needs to be customised.

"When performances are being done, we'd ensure the audience is female only and within the confines of school, particularly with dance. We also need to be sensitive around the time of Ramadan (when Muslims fast) - we adjust the PE curriculum so that it's less vigorous."

PE staff encourage the inclusion of all pupils. Organised games are now taking off: there are teams in cricket, rounders and netball. A sports day was introduced two years ago.

"Students wanted more responsibility for PE so we set up PE reps in charge of hiring out equipment at lunchtimes and break," says Ms Green.

For a recent school charity day, they decided they would like to do something sporting. They suggested a mini-marathon run around the school grounds which involved everyone, including staff.

Samina Begum, 15, a Year 11 school council member, has been involved in the changes. "We have comment books where we voice our opinions," she says.

"One thing we wanted was after-school clubs for netball and rounders. The PE department has been really decent about it. The new sports hall is a great improvement - we weren't keen on gym before."

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