Twelve years of Conservative rule have had a disastrous impact on girls’ sports in schools, experts have said, warning that women’s Euro victory last weekend will be lost unless drastic action is taken.
According to the Youth Sport Trust, 42,000 hours of physical education lessons have been lost in secondary schools over the past 10 years, with girls being the hardest hit, and the situation is getting worse.
The experts called for a “root review” of how physical education is taught. Observer the subject is “marginalized”, and the gender gap becomes apparent already by the age of seven, when girls are a year behind boys in “physical literacy”, the development of basic motor and sports skills. By the time they start high school at age 11, the gap is even wider. The activity of girls also differs by race.
The intervention came a week after the England women’s football team made history by becoming European champions by beating eight-time Germany in extra time.
Since then, the government has refused to provide equal access to football in schools, where the sport is only available to 63% of girls.
The Lionesses responded with an open letter to Conservative leadership challengers Rishi Sunaka and Liz Truss, urging them to offer football to all girls, guarantee a minimum of two hours a week of PE, and invest in female PE teachers so “young girls can thrive.” “.
Goalkeeper Mary Earps said football “Must be in the curriculum” for girls to have access.
Labor accused the Tories of “failing our children” and “obstructing” the Lionesses’ ambition to inspire a generation of young girls.
Wilson Frimpong, who is joint network manager for the Southwark PE and School Sports network, which works with about 100 schools, said the discrepancies start at a key first step. “By the age of seven, girls are a year behind [boys] in terms of their physical literacy… that’s a fact.”
Since girls are already “playing catch-up” by the time they are three, he says, physical activity on playgrounds is dominated by boys, and in high school, girls are less likely to play any sport, let alone football.
The problems with women’s sports date back to 2010, he said, when Michael Gove, then education minister, pulled out of the Labor Party’s school sports partnership.
In 2013, the Conservatives introduced a PE and sports bonus, currently allocating £320m a year to primary schools, but Frimpong said the scheme, which leaves spending decisions to school principals, often without specialist knowledge, is “imperfect”. Money that could have been spent on a women’s football club or inviting girls to local competitions was wasted by schools paying unqualified coaches or wasting it on other things like photocopying.
“You get very few deep checks from Ofsted that go into PE and premium spending to any degree, so schools pretty much get access to that money for free,” Frimpong said.
Without a long-term vision from the government and funding, the same post-euro talk will continue three years from now. Calling on the government to “take responsibility” for addressing the problem, he called for physical education to be a core subject, proper training for primary school teachers — they typically spend only six hours on physical education in initial teacher training — and support from specialists. like targets.
Ed Cope, lecturer in sports coaching at Loughborough University and lead researcher on a three-year study with the FA on increasing women’s participation in school football and increasing girls’ access to sports, said there are “deep-seated social issues that need to be addressed.”
“It requires me to have a complete overview of how it all works,” he said. “Right through the way teachers are taught physical education. Do they have the appropriate education and training to be able to offer the immersive, enjoyable experience that is required?”
Like the Lionesses, whose starting 11 players were all white, he said diversity issues permeate women’s sports and role models in the coaching and teaching staff are vital. “We know that female representation in general is incredibly low in coaching, and it gets even lower when we start talking about the diversity of these female coaches.”
Sport England’s latest Active Lives report from December showed that 49% of white British girls exercise an average of 60+ minutes a day, compared to 38% of black girls.
Ali Oliver, CEO of the Youth Sport Trust, said the gender disparity in school sports is due to the declining status of PE as schools face increased responsibilities in subjects like English, math and science.
She said this is especially a problem in high schools, which are not eligible for physical education and sports awards. Girls’ perceptions of whether they consider themselves “athletic” or “active” are formed as early as age four and five, she said, adding that by middle age the participation gap between boys and girls is “really widening.”
Education Minister Bridget Phillipson announced this. Observer: “Once again the conservatives are failing our children. They have narrowed the curriculum, squeezed out experienced, qualified teachers, and neglected the development of children as well as their learning.”
Labor is calling for a “guarantee of equal access” to every school sport and has promised to introduce a children’s recovery plan that will provide after-school clubs for all children and increase access to sports.
A Ministry of Education spokesman said: “We want to build on the success of the Lionesses at Women’s Euro 2022, which will inspire an entire generation of girls to take up the sport.
“The national physical education curriculum in schools is gender-neutral and we want to make the FA’s goal of having 90% of schools offering football to both boys and girls by 2024 a reality.”