According to the Youth Sport Trust, by the age of seven girls are already less active than boys, and this disparity widens as they move from childhood into adolescence. Struggles with self-confidence are exacerbated by getting changed in front of their peers, for example, or disruptions to friendship groups, and while many girls enjoy competition some dislike some of the behaviours associated with it, such as aggressiveness or bossiness.
However, hope is not lost. The recent success of Britain’s national women’s sports teams – the Red Roses’ Grand Slam victory in this year’s Six Nations, the Lionesses’ fourth-place finish in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the Roses winning the bronze medal on home soil in the Netball World Cup, England Women’s ICC Cricket World Cup win two years ago, and Team GB Women’s Hockey team’s historic gold medal win in Rio – all herald a new era of female-led sporting excellence.
Some of the North’s leading schools are hoping to build on this success by developing their own sporting provision: uncovering new, more dynamic ways of making sure that physical activity is more relevant to their female students than ever before.
Royal Grammar School, Newcastle
At RGS, we endeavour to ensure there is no reduced quality of experience for our female students when it comes to sports. The games kits, facilities available, teaching and coaching, fixtures, and level of challenge is fair across the board. Success is celebrated evenly and we are always looking to bring in different activities to keep the curriculum interesting. Sport is as professional as it can be, but we also see the value in having fun.
We are lucky that we have very few girls who aren’t engaged in sport. That is not say that every girl enjoys or likes sport, but they do get actively involved and I think that comes down to the variety of sports on offer, the facilities we have and the safe environments that are created for them. On top of this, the positivity and support they are shown by the teaching staff and coaches is second to none. Staff are role models for students, and it is so important that they are approachable, understanding, and have up-to-date knowledge to ensure the girls are getting the best experience possible and stay engaged. Competition and performance is encouraged positively, along with the pride that comes with representing RGS.
Andrea Lill, Head of Girls’ Games
The Grammar School At Leeds
The Grammar School at Leeds (GSAL) has won 11 national netball titles in the last decade, and even went one better this year when the U15 team won the World Schools Netball Cup.
Competitive netball is clearly alive and well, but what about the girls who prefer other sports? While the PE curriculum offers girls hockey, rounders, football and cricket, there are also plenty more opportunities available through the school’s social sports clubs.
In a recent survey, pupils said they wanted more fitness activities and a greater variety of clubs. The school responded, and – by introducing fun, non-competitive activities that are still challenging – saw an increased take-up of sport and fitness. Clubs now include spin, circuits, yoga, dance, basketball and couch to 5K. The new activities complement the traditional sports offer, with team players benefiting from the additional fitness activities and more pupils now getting a taste for sport.
Games are to be enjoyed, whether you win or lose. There are so many benefits from participating in sport – the social side, meeting people on your own and other teams, health and wellbeing, and learning self-discipline in coping with setbacks and reacting to adversity.
Kate Nash, Head of Girls’ PE
At Durham School, we encourage every girl to participate in a range of sporting activities, which are on offer through our games programme and also within our co-curricular activities programme. Traditional team sports – such as hockey, netball, cricket and rounders – are still very popular, especially following our national teams’ recent successes. And our links with local clubs means that many of our girls play both in school and in the community.
Durham School has also recently become the Regional Academy for Modern Pentathlon, which includes the development of Laser Running – a combination of laser shooting and running over a set course. This is proving very popular with girls from our school and from others in Durham, but had it not been for the recent raise in profile of women’s sport, we may not be experiencing such success.
The success for our national women’s teams at the Cricket World Cup, Netball World Club, Rugby World Cup, Football World Cup and the Rio Olympics (for hockey) has raised the profile of women’s sport tremendously, giving us a host of fantastic role models who are inspiring our next generation of sporting girls.
Mrs K. Rochester, Senior Housemistress of Pimlico House and Head of Co-Curricular
Queen Mary’s School, Thirsk
Sport is central to life at Queen Mary’s School and many teams across the year groups have had successes at local, county, regional and national level. From lacrosse to swimming, hockey to trampolining and yoga, there is a sport for everyone and inclusivity is key.
Our overarching aim is to promote a balanced and healthy lifestyle and give pupils the confidence and the coaching to master new skills. It is a priority to make every child feel safe and supported within lessons and to strive to improve within their own capabilities. We provide opportunities irrespective of ability to be creative, competitive and to face different challenges as an individual and as part of a team.
Recent sporting achievements have included the Under-10 Gymnastics Team finishing third in the UK in the National Independent Schools Gymnastics competition, and our riders are also extremely successful, continually secure excellent placings. They have qualified for the Royal Windsor Horse Show, with one of our girls now representing Great Britain.
The new Astro Pitch and Sports Pavilion will give all our pupils even more confidence to achieve. With such great opportunities available, we may see some of them following in the footsteps of the GB Women’s Hockey Team or the England Netball Team.
Danielle Pegg and Emma Lindsley, Joint Heads of PE