Sport England has recently published their Active Lives Survey with an overview of the findings associated with physical activity in Primary and Secondary schools’ across the nation during the 2018/2019 academic year. The detailed report clearly stated that there has been a 3.6% increase in the number of children in England doing an average of 60 minutes or more physical activity per day in comparison to the previous survey for 2017/2018.
It was noted that this increase was predominantly driven by schools, which included an increase of activities such as; active play, team sports and walking. It’s no surprise that boys were once again found to be more likely to be more active than what girls are by a considerable 51%. Similarly, children and young people with a disability or long term condition are still more likely to be less active. Whilst the fact that girls are less active than boys, and those with a disability or long term condition are less likely to be active in general has been a common theme over the years, it does still pose a question as why that is and what we can do in order to tackle that and encourage more engagement within these two groups of children and young people.
Growing up with a disability myself, I was never really encouraged to participate in PE at primary school especially. I don’t know whether it was because back then Health and Safety wasn’t what it is today, and the awareness surrounding disability for other pupils and staff wasn’t a big topic like it is today when I was at primary school, but I do know it limited me in terms of my personal development associated with physical activity for a period of time. Fast forward to the present day, I feel that everyone is far more encouraging around disability and focuses on what you can do rather than what you can’t now as opposed to when I was a lot younger. However, that being said, I do think there is still some discrepancy in schools’ with regards to enabling pupils with disabilities or conditions to participate in PE and sport effectively.
Despite the fact that PE teachers do their best to adapt their sessions to accommodate those with disability, more needs to be done in terms of adjusting lessons in a way that’s challenging these pupils in the same way the lesson does with others as well as preventing it from being at risk of being patronising. Maybe this can be done by schools’ using some of their sports premium budget to fund specialist equipment to help teachers modify their sessions properly in a way that’s enabling students to get involved and become more engaged rather than effectively being taught that their condition or disability means they are unable to successfully participate in PE and sport and achieve something worthwhile, as it’s either too easy and patronising or far too hard for them to accomplish.
Can you name 5 sporting legends? How many of those names you thought of were women? I bet most of them were men right? Whilst awareness of female sport is on the rise after recent success with Women’s Rugby and Women’s Football especially over the past year or so, there is still a gap where girls don’t necessarily see as many sporting success stories about female athletes which they can relate to as what boys can relate to with male athletes, which predominantly include footballers. Stereotypically, girls’ aren’t as interested in sports, football in particular, so they require more motivation to get them involved and enjoy it physical activity.
It’s imperative that the awareness of female athletes continues to improve so that girls have role models within sport that they aspire to be like, irrespective of whether they participate in physical activity just for enjoyment and to stay healthy or if they want to become a professional athlete themselves. This could be done by the media ensuring that there is more coverage about female athletes by putting them in the limelight more so that girls have more awareness that not just men are sporty, as well as providing them with a variety of female sporting role models. In addition to this, schools can also play a major part by asking local up and coming female athletes to come into school to talk about their sporting stories, which will not only inspire girls, but shows all children that these athletes come from similar backgrounds as themselves and have achieved success, conveying the message that anything is possible if you work hard.