July 18, 2024

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The gender gap in enjoyment of PE lessons widens in England.

The gap between the proportion of boys and girls in England who enjoy physical education (PE) lessons is increasing, according to a Youth Sport Trust survey. The survey found that 59% of girls in secondary schools said they liked PE or enjoyed it, compared to 84% of boys. This gap has widened since a 2016 survey, where 74% of girls reported liking PE. In contrast, the proportion of boys who like PE has remained relatively stable.

The Department for Education is committed to improving girls’ access to sports by encouraging schools to offer at least two hours of physical education per week and allocating more than £600 million in funding over two academic years. This decision came after the England women’s national football team penned an open letter to the government urging more school-sport opportunities for girls.

The Youth Sport Trust, the charity behind the survey, highlighted that this gender gap should be a cause for concern, as it may influence girls’ future activity levels as adults. Chief Executive Ali Oliver emphasised the need for more significant action to engage young women in sports, especially since periods and low confidence were the most common reasons girls gave for not wanting to participate in sports.

The survey also indicated that some girls felt alienated during PE lessons, with the curriculum’s focus on sports such as hockey and netball that they found “old-fashioned and outdated.” Olympic pole-vault bronze medalist Holly Bradshaw empathised with these concerns, emphasising the importance of addressing body-confidence issues.

To help improve girls’ uptake and enjoyment of sports, expanding the range of PE kit options offered by schools could be beneficial. The annual survey included responses from nearly 25,000 children, with 18,500 girls and 6,000 boys between the ages of seven and 18 participating in England.

The findings underscore the need for efforts to make PE more inclusive and enjoyable for all students, irrespective of gender, in order to promote lifelong participation in physical activity.