'PE lessons put self-conscious girls off sport'
PE lessons are putting girls off sport, according to research conducted by Loughborough University.
The research, by the university's Institute of Sport, on behalf of the Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation (WSFF), found many young girls felt self-conscious or unhappy at the activities on offer in schools, and it could be too competitive.
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.
Loughborough University asked 1,500 pupils from primary and secondary schools in the UK for their views on fitness for the study.
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WSFF chief executive Sue Tibballs said: "It's well known that school children are less active than they should be. This problem is particularly severe for girls.
"We need schools and the Government to urgently address this issue and create policies which will keep our children fit and healthy."
The findings show 51 per cent of girls are put off physical activity by their experiences of school sport and PE lessons.
Just under half – 45 per cent – think sport is too competitive.
The research also revealed nearly half of the least active girls said they did not like the activities they were offered in PE, compared with 26 per cent of the most active.
WSFF is writing to head teachers and PE heads to offer them tips on how to make the subject more appealing to female students.
Emma Martin, a PE teacher at Leicester High School for Girls in Leicester, welcomed the report and said it was vital schools offered a variety of sports, including competitive and non-competitive, that they were fun, and most importantly girls were encouraged no matter what level they were at.
She said: "At Leicester High School, we have lots of sports to choose from, including team sports and individual activities such as yoga, cycling and golf.
"We make sure they're in comfortable clothing if they're outside in the winter, so they don't have to wear shorts if they don't want to, and we ensure the older girls mentor the younger ones in sport."
Student Anjali Prashad, 18, is sports captain at the school.
She said: "I'm not the best netball player ever, but I've developed confidence from being encouraged to play."
Rob Jarram, sports development officer for Loughborough College, said: "In only one year, our apprentice programme, sending our sports students into schools to support PE teaching and extra curricular sports, has had a huge impact on 14 primaries.
"Almost half of our apprentices are female and we have been told this has had a positive influence on sport participation among girls."
The college has also set up a programme where a group of sportsmen and women visit schools nationwide to promote health and fitness.
Loughborough University lecturer Rachel Sandford, who helped carry out the research, said: "There are key elements brought out in the research.
"We hope schools and those offering activities can take something positive from the report and act on it."