Girls put off sport by ban on football

28th May 1999 at 01:00
Girls just want to join in 'boys' games' like cricket and rugby and think school PE is sexist and unfair. Girls just want to join in 'boys' games' like cricket and rugby and think school PE is sexist and unfair. Diane Spencer reports.

SCHOOL sport is still divided on "outmoded and sexist lines" after a decade of the national curriculum, says an unpublished report by researchers at King Alfred's College, Winchester.

A survey of around 3,000 pupils followed by an in-depth study of three secondary schools on what influences girls' enjoyment of physical education found a traditional division of winter sports into boys' or girls' activities with girls having less choice.

In the three schools most girls were not able to play football, rugby, cricket and basketball in PE lessons, while the boys were only barred from netball.

Many girls wanted to play football which they had started in their primary schools. They thought it was unfair and sexist that they couldn't join in.

Anne Williams, head of education at the college, also said that girls saw no point in being forced to continue with activities they disliked or were no good at by the time they were 14.

PE had shown a remarkable resilience to change over the past 15 years, unlike other subjects, she said. Girls' enjoyment was spoilt more by policies on PE kit, communal showering and teachers' attitudes than on the finer points of the national curriculum.

More than half the girls interviewed admitted to finding ways of avoiding PE lessons - forgetting kit, persuading parents to write notes or feigning injury or illness. Professor Williams said teachers could tackle this problem by giving students a choice of wearing tracksuits instead of shorts, a wider range of activities and a more sensitive attitude to communal showers and mixed classes.

The research, which was funded by the Nuffield Foundation, discovered that, contrary to popular perception, most students were involved in some kind of physical activity outside school and were well aware of the importance of exercise and keeping fit.

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