FIGURE-CONSCIOUS teenage girls in Wales are being put off PE because of a lack of private shower facilities in schools, according to an Estyn report this week.
Unfashionable kit is blamed for fewer girls taking part in sport, as are morning PE lessons, where they are then forced to spend the rest of the day uncomfortably hot.
Female teachers who fail to turn up on weekends to cheer on school teams were also criticised, as was the emphasis on competitive team sports, the traditional "male-invasion" games of the Victorian era, according to Girls' Participation in Physical Activity in Schools.
Parents were attacked for making more of an effort to watch their sons in sporting events than daughters, supporting an unintentional school-based bias in favour of boys playing sport.
"Many school changing rooms are open, uninviting, poorly decorated and bleak. Showering facilities in most school changing rooms are often the type that embarass teenage girls and make them reluctant to use them," says the report.
The findings are based on direct interviews with PE teachers in 19 schools, as well as Years 10 and 11 girls. But new imaginative programmes to lure girls into sport, such as the rise of cheerleading, tag rugby and Pilates, were all praised.
Incidences of girls excelling in traditional male sports such as football and rugby were also acknowledged. Chief inspector Susan Lewis said: "Sports facilities must be brought into the 21st century if we want to make health and fitness activities more attractive to girls."