Educate Magazine - 2021-09-01


These Girls Can!


The issue of the decrease in teenage girls participating in PE and physical activity is well known. But what happens between leaving primary school, where participation rates are similar for boys and girls, and Years 8/9 when girls participation plummets? The inspiring This Girl Can and other programmes targeting women and girls have identified a myriad of barriers to participation: I don’t like being sweaty, hate the changing rooms, don’t like this, not good at that etc. However, the common thread is the fear of judgement! • Don’t like being sweaty – People might think I smell / I’m not clean • Not good at… people may laugh at me. • Hate the changing rooms – I don’t want people to see my body Indeed, in a national survey 80,000 young people said ‘appearance’ was the main driver for participation in physical activity. Now it would be very remiss to say that it’s as simple as saying ‘don’t worry what other people think’ would magically increase participation; the issue is much more nuanced. However, working with Chloe Hinnigan, a local crossfit athlete and mental health champion, LSSP designed a programme that would develop a positive sense of self-worth in young women struggling with body confidence issues and low self-esteem. The same girls that would always forget their kit, sit out of the lesson or even not turn up. Schools identified and asked their girls if they wanted to try a new programme called ‘Train your Brain’. A programme where it doesn’t matter if you had a kit or not just turn up. The girls discuss why they don’t like PE / physical activity and Chloe helped them set personal goals. Using brush poles and plastic piping teaches the girls the correct technique for a range of weightlifting exercises. After a while the girls expressed an interest in trying the exercises ‘for real’! The enthusiasm for this has grown so much so that the girls never forget their kit and the girls now want to run a girls only extra-curricular fitness session for others in school. D’Arcy Dawson, from Broughton Hall said: “This programme has been a breath of fresh air. It is something different that we as a department believe there should be more of to encourage our girls to participate and be physically active.” James Porter, Childwall Sports and Science Academy said: “It’s working great to have a female role model who is into fitness and health, and this is inspiring for the girls here.” Finding out what was important to these girls really has made a significant difference in how they understand PE and hopefully, these new peer fitness activators will have a significant impact on others. Time will tell.


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