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19 January 2005 PR 05/05

More female-friendly curriculum key to encouraging girls into sport

Schools that offer more female-friendly sports activities such as aerobics, pilates and dance classes are successfully attracting more girls into sport, a Loughborough University research project has shown.

The findings come following an evaluation of the Girls in Sport initiative, which aims to increase girls’ involvement in sport.

The research was undertaken by Dr Tess Kay and Toni O’Donovan from the Institute of Youth Sport at Loughborough University.

“ Our research study has shown that the Girls in Sport programme offers a constructive way forward in addressing the long-standing, deep-rooted problems that adolescent girls have with sport and PE in schools,” explains Dr Kay. “Schools that implemented the programme saw some very positive results.”

The findings of the evaluation study revealed that:

A high percentage of schools adopting the Girls in Sport programme were also planning further developments in the future, for example to cater for minority groups or to work with partner primary and secondary schools.

The Girls in Sport programme was first established by Nike and the Loughborough University-based Youth Sport Trust. It aims to equip secondary school teachers with the appropriate skills and ideas to provide forms of physical education and sport opportunities that would foster long-term change in girls’ involvement in sport.

The initiative offers a five-part approach for schools – a training workshop for PE department staff, a user manual for secondary schools, assistance in developing a tailor made action plan, research support through the Institute of Youth Sport, and a national award scheme.

Since the project was launched nationally in 2000, 2271 secondary schools have attended one of 250 workshops. Over three-quarters of the schools have improved the range of opportunities available to girls both within the curriculum and at extra-curricular level. They have also placed increased emphasis on recognition of girls’ participation and achievement in sport, and tried to address issues such as the sporting environment, the PE/sport kit and class composition.

However, the evaluation study has also highlighted the complexity of implementing change in schools.

“ Support, staffing, time and funding were identified as four key aspects constraining teachers’ ability to implement change,” says Dr Kay. “The research also showed the significance of key individuals in driving forward the Girls in Sport agenda.”

The findings of the research project will be unveiled at Loughborough University today (19 January) to delegates attending Let’s Go Girls, the first conference in Britain to address young girls’ attitudes towards PE and sport.

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Notes for editors:

  1. Loughborough has an established reputation for excellence in teaching and research, strong links with industry, and unrivalled sporting achievement. Assessments of teaching quality by the Quality Assurance Agency place Loughborough in the top flight of UK universities, and industry highlights Loughborough in its top five for graduate recruitment. Around 45% of the University’s income is for research. The University has been awarded four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes: for its collaboration with aerospace and automotive companies such as BAE Systems, Ford and Rolls Royce; for its work in developing countries; for pioneering research in optical engineering; and for its world-leading role in sports research, education and development.

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