The survey by the GSA, which represents UK independent girls’ schools, asked a representative sample of 35 GSA schools what kind of rugby they offered and how many girls took part.
Around two-thirds (60%) of those surveyed said their girls play either tag rugby, rugby league or rugby union on a regular basis, involving an average 76 girls per school. A further 14% said they have plans to introduce rugby.
Half of the schools surveyed provide rugby or tag rugby as part of the curriculum and girls at 11% of surveyed schools play rugby fixtures, such as rugby sevens tournaments and city tag rugby league.
Some schools have partnerships with local rugby teams giving access to specialist facilities and training, while others have their own pitch and in-house specialists. Around 11% of surveyed schools have links with the Rugby Football Union and a further 34% are considering pursuing them.
Commenting on the survey, GSA president Alun Jones said: “The range of sporting activity in GSA schools is astonishing and the growing popularity of girls’ rugby is another indication that not all independent schools are stuck in the dark ages of tradition.”
One case in point is Sherborne Girls in Dorset, which has joint training sessions between girls at the school and girls at the local rugby club. They play rugby union and tag rugby as extra-curricular activities for girls in Years 9 to 12 and have recently ventured into friendly fixtures. The school also hosts the Dorset and Wilts U16 and U18 County trials and evening training and is planning to stage a girls’ rugby summer camp in 2016.
Housemistress and rugby coach Bex Brown commented: “Girls are keen to do rugby. They enjoy playing a ‘different’ sport. More schools should be playing it as it tends to promote a healthy approach to appearance and size, as well as being good exercise. It also helps girls to realise they are just as capable as boys.”
Newcastle High School for Girls, meanwhile, has a relationship with Newcastle Falcons who offer free coaching and access to training for staff. Girls play rugby union and offer tag rugby to Years 9-12 as part of the curriculum. Director of sport, Jackie Atkinson, added: “We offer rugby as a choice and believe that a broad depth of experiences is vital if girls are going to find activities they enjoy and can be good at.”