KEEPING girls involved in sport right up to Year 11 is no mean feat – but it’s a challenge they have risen to at Palatine School.
The Blackpool sports college has responded to a report by the Women’s Sports and Fitness Foundation which suggests school PE lessons put some girls off exercise for life.
Memories of blisteringly cold hockey lessons, baggy gym knickers and embarrassing showers have been blamed for inactive lifestyles in later years.
Now schools have been encouraged to introduce more female-friendly activities like Zumba and rollerblading.
But choice is the secret to keeping girls on the move, according to Gavin Grant, a PE teacher from the South shore school.
He said: “There’s no doubt it’s a lot harder to engage girls in sport.
“As they get older, outdoor activities are particularly challenging because they are self conscious and don’t want to mess up their hair or get sweaty.
“It is important to get them exercising at school. If they stop, there’s a real danger some will never return to it.”
The research, by Loughborough University, claims the amount of exercise girls and boys do widens during their time at school.
Eight-year-olds were found to do similar levels of activity, but among 14-year-old girls, only 31 per cent said they exercised regularly, compared with 50 per cent of boys.
Palatine took significant steps to redesign lessons a few years ago as every pupil is expected to carry on with PE until GCSE level.
Exercise programmes were widened and sports like aqua aerobics, spinning sessions, dance and gym time were introduced.
Girls were encouraged to timetable their own lessons picking activities instead of being forced into traditional sports.
And the changes have certainly improved female attitudes to sport at the St Annes Road school.
Mr Grant added: “We’ve seen a massive rise in the amount of pupils getting C grades, it’s gone from 42 to 96 per cent.
“The difficulty is, when girls become disengaged, they try and find excuses like forgetting their kit.
“I’ve been impressed by how much they love lessons like Zumba, we’ve seen some outstanding work.
“We also run leadership in sport so pupils get to help organise activities in primary schools.
“Giving them choice has made a huge difference.”
Pupils also gave the wider opportunities a thumbs-up. Year 10 pupil Victoria Tongue, said: “I hated PE when we were forced to do sports like running outside in winter.
“It’s so much better now we can choose because I can do Badminton and hockey which I like.
“It’s made me more willing to exercise.”
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