A new piece of research by the Youth Sport Trust has been published which highlights a significant decline in activity amongst girls in independent schools as they get older.
This major research project amongst independent school children has shown that girls play 10% less sport than boys in general and that 77% of girls report one or more barrier to taking part in physical activity compared to only 56% of boys. This drop-off in being active only gets more noticeable as girls grow older:
Girls’ activity levels drop as they get older
The Youth Sport Trust, the UK’s leading charity for improving the education and development of every child through sport and play, in conjunction with the sports brand Limitless (Schoolblazer), surveyed over 1,500 students at 17 independent schools to reveal a cross-section of important data. For girls in particular, the data reveals barriers to participation that include a lack of confidence, specifically body confidence, as well as a perceived lack of competence.
Just 41% of girls in independent schools are happy with the way their body looks compared to 63% of boys. Less than half (47%) of girls rate their overall confidence as ‘good’ compared to 71% of boys and 29% of girls listed ‘not being confident’ as a major barrier, compared to only 12% of boys. Clearly, the approach to PE and physical activity for girls needs a different approach.
In terms of their preferred activities at school, team sports proved to be the most popular activities but girls also want more variety in general.
Listening to young people and involving them in decisions about PE delivery may help to empower them and persuade those more reluctant to participate more.
The research also showed an important split by age group in terms of motivations to be active. Younger children are encouraged much more by improving skills and having fun with their friends, where older children become more motivated by winning and are driven by playing and competing in a team. Taking all age groups together however, having fun and being healthy were still the main incentives to being active.
The report concluded that empowerment, kit considerations and confidence are key areas for improvement, in order to encourage long-term engagement in an active lifestyle.
The results of the study will be shared with the schools which have taken part and the wider sector, to help inform and develop relevant provision for pupils, and to promote a culture that encourages activity across the school. You can see the full report on the YST website.
Limitless has already taken many of the findings on board. Limitless sales director Chris Marshall said: “Overall this research is a vital insight into the importance of body confidence in encouraging all pupils to be active.
“We are reviewing our product offer in the light of this to ensure that the kit we provide, particularly for girls, builds self-confidence and encourages participation.
“Our recent innovations with the Limitless bra and alternatives to traditional skorts shows the direction of travel, but there is more to do.”
Amanda Vernalls, head of evaluation and research specialist at the Youth Sport Trust, said: “Without the support of organisations like Limitless, we wouldn’t be able to further understand the attitudes and barriers to physical activity, PE and sport for all young people.
“The findings provide an important glimpse into girls’ relationships with physical activity, PE and sport in private schools. We hope this research will support schools to make informed choices and engage all young people by listening to students’ views.”