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'Tubby and terrified': How fear puts girls off PE

From BBC - November 6, 2017

Gracie Rowe used to be terrified of PE.

"I was on the tubby side.

"My personal self-consciousness was like a devil on my shoulder telling me I could not do it.

"It was the fact that I had to move, be active and sweat.

"I would just stand and watch and mope."

Gracie says she had zero self-confidence when she started secondary school.

She was so nervous that she tried to persuade her mum she was sick most days and twice-weekly PE lessons were a particular source of stress.

"I was worried that people judged me. It was because I was not happy with myself."

The school's PE uniform did not help: "It was a 'skort' - sort of shorts and skirt in one - and it was quite tight and short.

"All my friends hated PE just as much as I did."

Hayley Wood-Thompson, Gracie's PE teacher at The John Warner School in Hertfordshire, says about half of the girls feel the same.

The school shares its site with a sport centre, so has the use of excellent facilities.

"We offer quite a broad spectrum of activities. There is a dance studio and swimming pool. But lots of the girls are still turned off by it."

The UK's chief medical officer recommends school-age children do at least an hour of exercise each day.

But new research with 25,000 secondary students in England and Northern Ireland suggests that, at secondary level, only 8% of girls and 16% of boys manage this.

Of the teenagers, surveyed by Youth Sport Trust and Women in Sport, more than 80% understood the importance of being active but almost half of boys and nearly two-thirds of girls were less than keen on taking part themselves.

The research suggests lack of confidence is key.

Among girls over 14, more than a third said they felt insecure, hated other people watching them and were self-conscious about their bodies.

Almost two-thirds said they disliked competitive PE lessons.

Skorts out

Gracie's mum and her teachers realised they had to boost her confidence to ensure she attended school.

Her mum brought her in for meetings with the head of year - and the school enrolled her on to a healthy living project to improve her self-esteem.

At the same time, big reforms to the school's PE programme were under way, designed to encourage girls to engage with the subject.

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