The government has promised to capitalise on what youth sport leaders have called “a moment in time when momentum is with us” by tackling the gender gap and getting more girls active.
On what is the first anniversary of The Telegraph’s ‘Girls, Inspired’ campaign, sports minister Nigel Huddleston praised its “timely” influence and emphasised the “vital” importance of daily activity during the coronavirus crisis for both the physical and mental health of young people.
Sport England has also just announced a £195 million emergency fund to help community sports clubs, and in collaboration with the Youth Sport Trust, has designed numerous free online activities to inspire children to stay active.
Mike Diaper, Sport England’s director of children and young people, said that campaigns like Girls, Inspired were “vital” while Alison Oliver, the chief executive of the Youth Sports Trust said that The Telegraph had helped to “galvanise” school sport leaders over the past 12 months.
“A lot has happened and I genuinely think the sector, with The Telegraph’s help, has influenced what has appeared in manifestos and what was repeated in the Queen’s Speech,” she said. “We have seen some really consistent commitment to PE and access to school sites. It’s been a really encouraging year. It feels like a moment when momentum is with us.”
The Telegraph campaign, which followed research showing that just eight per cent of girls aged between 11 and 18 were meeting the chief medical officer’s recommendation of at least a daily hour of activity, specifically called on government to support schools in three key aims: To ensure an equality of opportunity to access sports; new guidelines, enforced by Ofsted, which elevated the status of PE and for schools to empower girls by offering a wider and more innovative choice of activities.
The government’s School Sport and Activity Action Plan then outlined a range of new initiatives last July, including a requirement that schools should provide an “equal and coordinated” offer of sport. There has since also been a commitment to invest £17 million in teacher training, an annual £15 million to maximise school sports facilities and a promise that Ofsted will be “specifically tasked with inspecting and reporting on PE”.
The Football Association has also pledged to give every girl access to football in school by 2024. Huddleston has been struck by how the sports sector has mobilised during the coronavirus crisis. “I was delighted to see Lionesses Millie Bright and Rachel Daly getting involved in the ‘#StayInWorkOut’ campaign, sharing workout tips with those they inspired to take up football through the World Cup,” he said.
“We’ve had to change the way we work out, but the government is absolutely determined to maintain the momentum on women and girls’ sport, highlighted by The Telegraph‘s timely campaign.”
Although Sport England research showed improvement in activity levels over the past year, Diaper stressed that the bigger picture was still “that not enough children are getting the recommended levels of activity during normal times and girls are still less likely to play sport or do physical activity than boys”.
Sport England will this year also produce a new Netflix-style platform of resources with teen-inspired workouts and activity content for girls to run alongside its successful This Girl Can campaign. Women in Sport are also particularly targeting the drop-off rate in sport among teenage girls and have developed resources to help organisations reframe sport for girls.
“Sport and exercise should offer a lifeline to a generation of pressurised young people but far too many teenage girls, in particular, miss out,” said chief executive Stephanie Hilborne.