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Experts warn that Lionesses’ legacy is at risk as girls’ PE schools fail | Sport

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Twelve years of Tory government have had a disastrous effect on girls’ sports in schools, experts say, warning that last weekend victory at the Women’s Euro will be wasted unless decisive action is taken.

Over the past 10 years, 42,000 hours of PE lessons have been lost in secondary schools – with girls the worst hit – and the situation is getting worse, according to the Youth Sport Trust.

Experts have said that they teach physical education, calling for an “increasingly detailed review”. The observer the subject is “marginalized” and the gender gap becomes apparent as early as age seven — when girls are a year behind boys in “physical literacy,” the development of basic motor and athletic skills. By the time they start high school at age 11, the gap is even wider. Girls’ activism also varies by race.

The intervention came a week after England’s women’s soccer team made history to become European champions by beating eight-time holders Germany in extra time.

In the following days, the government refused to commit for equal access to football in schools where this sport is available to only 63% of girls.

The lionesses answered an an open letter to Conservative leadership contenders Rishi Sunaku and Liz Truss, urging them to offer football to all girls, guarantee a minimum of two hours of PE a week and invest in PE teachers so “young girls can thrive”.

Goalkeeper Mary Earps said soccer “Must be in the curriculum” for girls to have access.

Lionesses captain Leah Williamson carries the Euro 2022 Women’s trophy at Wembley. Photo: Harriet Lander/Getty Images

On Sunday, Labor will accuse the Tories of “failing our children” and “thwarting” Ilwitz’s ambitions to inspire a generation of young girls.

Wilson Frimpong, who is joint manager of Southwark’s PE and school sports network, which works with around 100 schools, said the disparities start at stage one. “Up to the age of seven, girls are a year behind [boys] in terms of their physical literacy … it’s just a fact.”

While girls are already “playing catch-up” by age three, physical activity on playgrounds is dominated by boys, and by high school girls are less likely to play any sport, let alone soccer.

Problems with girls’ sport began in 2010, he said, when Michael Gove, then education secretary, scrapped Labour’s school sport partnership.

The Conservatives introduced the PE and Sport Premium program in 2013, now giving primary schools £320m a year, but Frimpong said the scheme, which leaves spending decisions to headteachers who often lack specialist knowledge, is “flawed “. Money that could have been spent on a children’s football club or on girls’ participation in a local competition was being wasted by schools paying unqualified coaches or spending it on other things such as photocopying.

“You get very few in-depth Ofsted inspections that look at PE and spending around the premium to any degree, so schools pretty much have a free shot at that money,” Frimpong said.

Without long-term vision from the government and funding, the same post-euro conversations would continue three years later. Calling on the government to “take ownership” of the problem, he called for PE to be a core subject, adequate training for primary teachers (they typically only spend six hours on PE in initial teacher training) and specialist support as targets .

Ed Cope, lecturer in sports coaching at Loughborough University, lead researcher on a three-year study with the FA into increasing female participation in football in schools and giving girls better access to sport, said there were “deep societal issues that need to be addressed”.

“It requires me to fundamentally review how it all works,” he said. “Right through the way teachers are trained in physical education. Do they provide the appropriate education and training to be able to offer the exciting and enjoyable experience that is needed?”

Team training in a women's football club
Team training in a women’s football club. Sports are available to only 63% of girls in schools. Photo: Caia Image/Getty Images

As with the Lionesses, whose starting 11 was all white, diversity issues run through women’s sports, he said, and role models in the coaching and teaching staff are critical. “We know that the representation of women in coaching in general is incredibly low, and it’s even lower when we start talking about the diversity of these women who are coaching.”

The latest Sport England Active Lives report from December shows that 49% of white British girls exercise for more than 60 minutes a day on average, compared to 38% of black girls.

Ali Oliver, chief executive of the Youth Sport Trust, said gender inequality in school sport was due to the declining status of PE as schools faced more responsibility in subjects such as English, maths and science.

She said this is particularly a problem in secondary schools that do not qualify for PE and Sport Premium. Girls’ perceptions of whether they consider themselves “sporty” or “active” are formed as early as four or five years old, she said, adding that the gap in participation between boys and girls “really widens” at the second stage.

Bridget Phillips. According to her, the extension of Premium physical education and sports to secondary schools will help increase the importance of physical education and sports in public policy, which will help to change attitudes. “Then not only do we have a chance to get more female soccer players and preserve the legacy of a huge win for the Lionesses, but we also have a chance to make sure this generation grows up to be healthy, happy and make a positive contribution to society.”

n, the shadow education secretary, said The observer: “Again, conservatives are failing our children. They narrowed the curriculum, pushed out experienced, qualified teachers, and neglected children’s development and learning.”

Labor is calling for a “guarantee of equal access” to all sports at school and has promised to introduce a children’s wellness plan that will see after-school clubs for all children and increase access to sport.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “We want to build on the Lionesses’ success at Women’s Euro 2022 to inspire a generation of girls to take up sport.

“The national school PE curriculum does not differentiate between genders and we want to see the FA’s ambition of 90% of schools offering football to boys and girls by 2024 a reality.”

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