PE lessons and an emphasis on competition are putting schoolgirls off participating in sport, MPs warn today.
Schools should be more imaginative in the options given to girls, providing them with the chance to do dance, or even rugby, instead of netball and hockey, recommends the Select Committee on Culture Media and Sport.
The committee also suggests journalists and commentators should “refrain from discussing the appearance of sportswomen and from making derogatory comments.”
These are among the conclusions of a report investigating why levels of participation in sport by women are so low compared to men.
“While some enjoy team games or athletics, others would enjoy sampling a wider variety of activities, such as dance or cycling, or non-traditional games for girls like rugby,” it said.
The report’s authors have consulted grass-roots coaches, world champions, politicians and PE teachers, and also concluded that a lack of communication and co-operation between government departments is to blame.
Video: Schools need to have the right attitude to sport
Improving participation in sport was the most important promise made as part of London’s Olympic legacy, and the report concludes that efforts by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in achieving this are not helped by the Departments for Health and Education not working more closely together to achieve it.
It also criticises the poor level of facilities available in most local communities and raises concerns that “a diminution in the number and quality of sporting facilities will increase the need for more expensive health and social care interventions in a less fit population.”
The greater prize money and coverage on offer to men in elite sport is also a factor, and the report suggests there are “comparatively easy ways in which the media could contribute to reinforcing the view that women’s sport is worthy of interest”.
Currently, only around 30 per cent of women take part in sport once a week, compared to 41 per cent of men.
Other factors cited by the report include the broadly held idea among women that muscular bodies are unattractive, and a reluctance to take part in exercise classes or group sports activities through embarrassment about appearing unfit or unattractive.
µ The number of children trying cigarettes has dipped to the lowest level on record, new figures suggest. One in five pupils aged 11 to 15 said they have tried smoking, the Health and Social Care Information Centre found.
The NHS statistics authority said this is the lowest level recorded since the school pupil survey began in 1982.
The research also suggested that youngsters’ attitudes towards drinking and drugs are “considerably” healthier than a decade ago.