Schools to help girls enjoy PE

STEVE DOWNES Five Norfolk schools are joining forces to hire a “wellbeing mentor” to solve the age-old problem of teenage girls dropping out of PE.

STEVE DOWNES

Five Norfolk schools are joining forces to hire a “wellbeing mentor” to solve the age-old problem of teenage girls dropping out of PE.

In what is believed to be the first project of its type in the country, the mentor will befriend 14-16-year-olds who are losing interest in school sports. Whoever gets the Lottery-funded job will be given freedom to find innovative ways to “get them interested”. They could include:

t allowing girls to wear jogging trousers instead of shorts;

t making links with a local leisure centre to set up aerobics classes;

t single-sex PE lessons for the particular group of girls;

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t PE lessons in rooms without windows, so the girls have privacy;

t yoga and Pilates classes.

Jenny Day, development manager for Breckland Schools Sport Partnership, said: “A lot of 14-16-year-old girls drop out of PE and don't enjoy it anymore.

“It's about finding activities for them to do. We are employing a person to work for a day a week in each of the five high schools, with a total of 75 girls, to sit down with them and find out why they don't want to do it.

“Is it because of the cold, what they have to wear, or not wanting to do mixed PE? It could be to do with self image. We've always got very sporty girls who will turn their hands to anything, but also there are slightly overweight girls who don't want to run around or change in front of other people.

“Hopefully they will get into the mindset that exercise is good for them. If we can give them positive experiences of sport - showing them it's not just running around the field for cross-country - we could make a difference.”“

The five schools involved are Rosemary Musker and Charles Burrell at Thetford, Attleborough, Wayland and Wymondham College.

Miss Day added: “This is a concern not just in Norfolk but nationally. There are obvious fitness and health benefits but our concern is also that a loss in interest in sport can have a wider effect and lead to them losing interest in school and learning.”

The Women's Sports Foundation welcomed the idea and said it had not heard of such an approach.

A spokesman said: “It's not something we've heard of before but it's a very interesting idea. Trying to maintain teenage girls' interest in sport in a major problem - which brings with it a range of health and social issues.

“The figures show that far more girls stop taking part in sport by the time they reach 18 than boys.”

He said research showed that girls continued to “fall behind” in all aspects of sport and physical activity - including participation, funding and media coverage.

Figures showed that more than 50pc of girls aged 11 to 16 would choose to occupy their free time with things other than sport or exercise. Four in 10 girls had dropped out of sports activity by 18.

Statistics also showed that one in three girls aged 11 in the UK was overweight and between the ages of 16 and 24 women were twice as likely as men to be obese, the spokesman said.

Interviews for the post are on May 1, with the successful applicant expected to be in post by June.