[Press Association] PE lessons are putting girls off sport, new research suggests.
Sport is too competitive, with many young girls feeling self-conscious or unhappy at the activities on offer in schools, according to a study by the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation (WSFF).
The foundation is warning that girls in the UK are not getting enough exercise, and that schools are vital in encouraging them to be more active.
Their report draws on research conducted by the Institute of Youth Sport at Loughborough University, which asked 1,500 pupils for their views on fitness.
The findings show that just over half of girls (51%) are put off physical activity by their experiences of school sport and PE lessons.
Just under half (45%) think sport is too competitive, while over a third say their PE teacher only pays attention to pupils who are good at sport.
The research also revealed that girls’ attitudes to PE are led by their peers, and that many feel uncomfortable taking part.
Just under half (48%) of the girls questioned said that “getting sweaty is not feminine” while almost a third of boys questioned said that girls who are sporty are not feminine.
Nearly three-fifths (57%) of girls agreed that girls drop out of doing physical activity because their friends do.
“Being popular is not defined by being ‘sporty’ for girls – but it is for boys,” the report says.
“Boys receive more encouragement to be sporty from their friends.”
The foundation’s report also reveals that nearly half of the least active girls say they do not like the activities they are offered in PE, compared with 26% of the most active.
Over three-quarters (76%) of girls agreed that female pupils are self-conscious about their bodies, with around a quarter saying they feel their body is on show in PE and this makes them like the subject less.
WSFF is writing to head teachers and heads of PE to offer them tips on how to make PE more appealing to female students.
WSFF chief executive Sue Tibballs said: “It is well-known that school children are less active than they should be. This problem is particularly severe for girls. Our research shows that PE and school sport is actually putting the majority of girls off being active, even though three-quarters of girls are keen to do more exercise.
“We need schools and the Government to urgently address this issue, and create policies that will keep our children fit and healthy. The priority needs to be getting all children active, not just focusing on the sporty ones.”
:: The research is based on a survey of around 1,500 primary and secondary school pupils and focus groups involving 169 youngsters.