The link between students, sport and school attendance

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According to recent research undertaken by Women in Sport, over a million UK girls have lost interest in sport by the time they reach their teenage years.

The study revealed that a lack of confidence (cited by 61%) and a fear of being judged (cited by 68%), were the main reasons that teenage girls no longer participating in sport. Its poll of over 4,000 teenagers discovered that 43% of girls who self-identified as sporty at primary school, no longer viewed themselves this way by the time they reached secondary school. The survey highlighted how this would equate to 1.3 million girls across the UK.

The report concluded that girls were likely to need more support to engage with and participate in sport as they went through puberty, as nearly eight out of ten girls (78%) who felt they used to be sporty, said that they avoided involvement in sport when they were on their periods, with pain, tiredness and self-consciousness being stated as the main contributing factors. 

The report by Women in Sport highlighted that ‘worryingly, girls lose their love of sport and exercise during their teenage years…’ and that it was ‘deeply concerned by the number of girls who disengage from sport and exercise post primary school’. These statements are backed by the findings that among the 11-16 year olds surveyed, only 37% of girls said they enjoyed physical activity, compared with 54% of boys.

Stephanie Hilborne, the chief executive of Women in Sport, said, “It’s an absolute travesty that teenage girls are being pushed out of sport at such a scale”, and we can clearly see the significant impact that this has on girls throughout their education. 

From the findings of the report, we are able to distinguish a strong link between girls disengaging in sport and how this may affect their attendance at school – as if girls are not enjoying their sport lessons (and their needs are not being met) they are more likely to be absent from school on days when P.E. is scheduled.

In addition to missing the opportunity for maximum learning time, girls will also be missing the number of other benefits that participating in sports provides. Stephanie Hilborne illustrated this by adding, “It is well documented that taking part in physical activity can have a profound and positive effect on mental wellbeing as well as providing many pivotal life skills such as resilience, teamwork and communication”.

“Teenage girls are not voluntarily leaving sport, they are being pushed out as a consequence of deep-rooted gender stereotypes. We must all do more to reverse this trend and not continue to accept this as inevitable.”

The charity is requesting for sport, leisure and education sectors to keep girls engaged in sport, especially during the transition from primary to secondary school and during puberty. Therefore, schools and educational professionals have the responsibility to make sure that they are looking for links between absence and sports lessons, and ensure that they are supporting girls so that they feel comfortable and confident engaging in sport at school.

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