Youth Sports Trust - Girls Active

31st August 2016
We have received a case study based on our Girls Active project with the Youth Sports Trust. We are really proud of what everyone involved has achieved.

Case Study: Girls Active (Youth Sports Trust 2016)

Background of girls’ participation in PE, physical activity and sport (i.e. what it was like before the intervention)

Reflecting national statistics for young people with moderate learning difficulties, the number of boys at the school vastly outweighs the number of girls. Typically, therefore, during lunchtimes the boys dominated the physical activity spaces while the girls sat around being inactive.

What did you want to achieve: a) In PE, physical activity or sport; b) In terms of whole school/wider outcomes?

The school wanted to increase girls’ levels of physical activity during the school day, with a particular focus on the secondary-age students. The primary-age pupils do tend to be more active as they have music-based activity sessions but the girls in Years 7-14 were particularly sedentary. The focus was on informal activities during lunchtime, which the secondary and sixth form students share. To do this, the school also felt it important to build the girls’ confidence, to enable them to take more responsibility for their own activities. This is very much in-keeping with the whole school ethos.


What did you actually do? Who was involved (girls, staff and other partners)?

Following attendance at Girls Active training in November 2015, the lead teacher recruited seven girls to form a Girls’ Leadership and Marketing (GLAM) squad. She targeted girls who were more verbal (as communication is a challenge for many students), who were less-active and who were approachable as these would make good role models for their peers. As students tend to be grouped by ability rather than age in the school, the GLAMs included a Year 7 student and a Year 14 student. The group also included a girl on the autism spectrum. Four of the GLAMs attended the national Girls Active camp in March 2016. Before the camp, two of the school’s teaching assistants (TAs) met with the girls to talk through their concerns and the expectations. Teachers also supported the girls to complete the camp paperwork as sometimes parents were unable to do this.


Immediately following the camp, the girls were so enthused that they wanted to deliver an assembly to their peers. They had taken photos at the camp, with a camera provided by the school, so met with the TAs to select photos and create statements which the TAs supported them to include in a PowerPoint presentation. They delivered the assembly to share their enthusiasm and ideas with the other girls.


The GLAMs created a survey to identify the other girls’ preferred activities and took a copy to every class. From this they designed a programme of girls-only lunchtime activities which they plan, organise and run on Wednesdays. (They are allowed to wear their GLAM kit – purple sweatshirts – on Wednesdays instead of their school uniform in recognition of their role.) The activities include rounders, yoga, relay races, football and Zumba. Although the lead teacher supported the GLAMs to create their first poster, the girls now do everything; the teacher can leave it all to them, though the girls know they can ask for help with any computer-based writing tasks.



What impact did this have on the girls? E.g. attitudes, behaviours, participation rates, skills, achievements.

As a result of the GLAMs’ motivation (they send a runner around the school before the sessions to remind people), the majority of secondary-age girls now participate in the activity sessions. On average, this equates to 20 out of a possible 30 girls taking part, although for some sessions only three or four girls are not participating. In addition, the current GLAMs have been such inspiring role models that girls have already requested to join the squad next year.


For the GLAMs, all school staff have noted their increase in confidence in school generally. Furthermore, as they have gained confidence, the girls’ levels of independence and sense of responsibility and initiative have also increased. For example, without any prompting from the teacher or TAs, the Year 14 girl created registers and certificates for every session. This supports the girls to develop and highlight their employability skills. As a group, they also had the confidence and skills to seek a meeting with the head teacher to discuss the PE kit. This has resulted in meetings with the deputy head to explore options, emphasising the fact that the girls do have a voice that is respected across the school.    


Quotes from girls (participants and leaders):


GLAMs – about themselves

“When I had no confidence I couldn’t do that but now I can run a group on my own.”

“I felt good when I did the assembly. I don’t like standing in front of the whole school [but] I felt really positive about that.”

“Now I feel I can stand up in front of people. That’s given me confidence.”

GLAMs – about the participants

“They are happy but not in front of boys. [Now] they are more sporty and alive and they cheer each other on as well.”

“There are some that would otherwise just sit down at lunchtime. They are always coming up to me now [and] they say they can’t wait for the next time.”

“They are going to get a certificate if they meet their targets. That’s going to make more people come as well. They are going to feel happier about themselves as well.”


What impact did this have on the PE department?


The focus of Girls Active has been on informal physical activity rather than PE but, as a result of their involvement as GLAMs, some of the girls now assist the teacher in PE lessons. They run activities with targeted groups while the teacher works with others.


Quote from lead teacher and/or head of PE:

Impact on the GLAMs

“It’s the confidence, confidence and self-esteem. We had a film crew in two weeks ago. It was on the spot; we didn’t know they were coming. We chose two of the Girls Active girls… and they were fantastic. They couldn’t have done that before. To be talking so eloquently without a script – they wouldn’t have been able to do that before.”

“With their self-esteem – and they are proud – and for the other students to see that and to see their role. They can see that they are in that different role and they have more of a presence.”

Impact on participants

“Students are more likely to think I might give that a go… so peer pressure is a really good thing.”

“It’s just trying to get the students more active. If they are doing more things in school they might be more encouraged to try more things outside of school. Hopefully that will have a knock-on effect on their lives and their futures.”

What impact did this have on the whole school?


It is early to judge the impact on the girls’ academic achievement but, as indicated above, it has increased their confidence and self-esteem, their communication skills and their independence, initiative and sense of responsibility. These are critical to the increased employability of students that is a key part of the school’s improvement plan. Continuing to develop student voice is another whole school priority and Girls Active is an excellent example of how students have been enabled to have a voice with their peers, the staff and the school’s senior leaders.


Quote from senior leader (and others where relevant, e.g. parents, partners):


See earlier quotes about confidence.

Top tips: What were the key things that made this work? Or what would you do differently if something didn’t work so well?

  • Invest time with the girls initially – selling the concept to them – so they are ready to get on board. In particular, support them (and their parents) before they go to the camp so they are prepared.
  • Have a teacher lead an activity initially and/or provide bespoke training for the girls in one activity so they build their skills and confidence before taking greater ownership.
  • Make an example poster so the girls can see what it might look like (and what information it needs to contain) before they create their own.
  • Trust that they can take full ownership of the programme and step back so they control it.


Next steps: How are you embedding and sustaining the intervention? How are you extending its impact?

  • The lead teacher is considering the implications for after-school provision, looking at how the GLAMs could support these clubs in future.
  • Girls have already registered interest for next year, although the imbalance of boys and girls in lower year groups adds to the challenge of ongoing development. (There are only two girls and ten boys in the current Year 6.)
  • The lead teacher is also considering how less-verbal/non-verbal girls might be involved as there are a number of girls with Down’s syndrome who don’t have a voice.


Which Girls Active principle(s) does this intervention reflect?

  1. Make PE and school sport relevant to girls’ lives
  2. Empower girls through involving them in design and delivery
  3. Develop role models for the future
  4. Place the development of self-confidence at the heart of PE and sport
  5. Recognise the power of friends to drive progress
  6. Take a long-term approach to engaging girls