Research published earlier this year by the Government Equalities Office claims that girls lose motivation to play sport after the age of seven, frequently as a result of self-consciousness and loss of confidence. Perception is a common problem, with many girls considering boys’ sports to be “rough”, while boys believe that girls lack skill. Girls dislike playing in the cold, researchers found, preferring sports that can be played indoors, such as netball or swimming. The lack of female sporting role models also had a negative impact.
So how can teachers better motivate girls to take part? Stuart Forsyth was a PE teacher between 1983 and 2001, before joining the University of Strathclyde. He claims that many girls take part in sport because they are told to, not because they like it. The student-teacher relationship and social aspect is also a motivator, he says, so positive interactions are important. He has also found that female students prefer to have PE lessons in the morning or last thing in the day, and would like to choose their own kits. They also want a say in which activities are offered.
“There needs to be a reorganisation of things, like letting students choose what their PE lessons are like. Teachers have got to be really enthusiastic and treat the children as individuals.”