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News > Head's Features > Message from the Head: 25th November 2022

Message from the Head: 25th November 2022

Women and Sport: St George's lead the way and the Power of Introverts
Mrs. Chandler-Thompson, Head
Mrs. Chandler-Thompson, Head

Women and Sport: St George’s lead the way

This week, I returned to London for the first time since moving to Edinburgh, to attend the Girls’ School Association Annual Conference. This is always an inspiring event and a great opportunity to share ideas with fellow Heads in Girls’ schools about how we can continue to provide the best possible education and experience for our students. There were many highlights, which I am sure I will dwell on in future updates but given our exciting news about the forthcoming changes to St George’s sports kit, it seems pertinent to talk a little about some of the great work which is going on in the sector around women and girls in sport. A particularly inspiring presentation was made by Abby Johnston and Charlotte Irving about their world-record breaking 3000-mile row across the Atlantic. Whilst we won’t all be world-record breakers, the skills, self-esteem and endorphin-boost that young women gain from being active and participating in sports and activity is undoubted. Research published earlier this year by Sport England highlighted that too many girls are disengaging from sport in their teenage years for a range of reasons.

As the report outlines:

‘The need to engage girls in more active lifestyles has never been more urgent. This generation of teenage girls are experiencing worrying mental health issues and report being less happy, more anxious and increasingly dissatisfied with their appearance. The pandemic has, in many instances, simply amplified these issues for many girls.'

 An underlying narrative prevails; that girls are not as competitive; that sport is not important for girls; that they will never be as good at it compared to boys; that sport can be at odds with femininity. Add to that the harassment and unwanted attention teenage girls are subject to when exercising and quite simply, taking part becomes a burden, instead of bringing freedom and joy.’ (Reframing Sport for Teenage Girls: Tackling Teenage Disengagement - Women in Sport).

I’m pleased to say at St George’s the depressing figure of 43% of girls disengaging from sport post-primary school age, does not apply. In my meetings with Upper Sixth this term, I was delighted to hear so many of them talk about how much they are still enjoying and appreciating their sport and activity. That is not to say we can be complacent though and I am delighted with the work that the department is doing to mitigate any barriers to girls’ participation. Partnering with a kit supplier who is specifically focussed on the needs of young women and has used feedback from young people in developing their kit is one important step. Our senior students are also taking the lead in de-mystifying the features of puberty and periods, which can be a barrier to sport participation, and they led an excellent assembly in Lower School this week to encourage students to talk about these issues more openly. The PE department are also about to embark on a large-scale survey with our older students about barriers to participation, which will give the students a voice in terms of understanding the issues that might be preventing them from enjoying and participating in sport. Further to our work on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, they will also be open to considering if there are any themes around culture and ethnicity that might be structural barriers. I hope we will get a good representative response. As a girls-only environment, I think we are particularly well placed to lead the way in this area, and I look forward to seeing what comes out of the survey.

 

Power of Introverts

Finally, from me this week, I am sure some of you will be familiar with the author Susan Cain, who writes brilliantly about the power of introversion. She is referenced in this podcast: On Educating Girls Podcast: Girls Who Embrace Their Introvertedness - ICGS (girlsschools.org) for the International Coalition of Girls Schools, which some of you may enjoy listening to on the dog walk or commute. Research suggests up to 40% of us are introverts so undoubtedly you either are one or you know one!

This is a topic I find really interesting, and I have previously written about here:  'It's time to help introverts thrive in school' | Independent School Management Plus

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