Changes to “strict, inflexible” school uniform policies, which inhibit greater physical activity, especially among girls and young women, are recommended in a new report to the Government.
The report of the youth stakeholder forum on sport, to be published on Monday, recommends that a “physical activity-friendly” approach be taken to school uniform policy.
The findings are based on a forum convened by Minister of State for Sport Jack Chambers earlier this year, and state that “strict, inflexible uniforms and school dress policies were cited as being an impediment in many cases to achieving greater physical activity by young people”.
It was considered to be an issue “for girls and young women especially”, according to the report, although boys and young men agreed that such policies “also made it difficult for them to lead an active life and be engaged in physical activity in school”.
Cycling or walking
“Promoting active travel to and from school, whether by cycling or walking, was not being helped in this context,” the report says.
It also found that students were “frustrated with the insufficient amount of time and the scope of PE activities” available in schools, with only a handful of sports – often major field sports – focused on.
“There was too much emphasis on team sports, more attention should be given to individual or less popular sports,” the report states.
It found that students also complained that sports for women and girls were “not given equal attention or resources in many schools”.
“The priority was being given to sports played by boys with girls’ sports losing out as a result,” it states. The findings also note that “issues around menstruation” are problematic, especially when coaches either do not know how to address or approach related performance issues or are “insensitive or unaccommodating to the constraints on the athletes concerned”.
The report is based on insights from 100 young people who took part in online and in-person meetings this year and last, examining what helps or hinders young people’s participation in sport.
It notes frustration among younger people that some facilities were unavailable to them, including some owned by schools or private, member-owned bodies.
The forum also concluded that a municipal model of facilities provision, along the lines of that which exists in continental Europe, would help the development of those who want to play smaller sports. A single multipurpose facility designed for and available for use by multiple sports would encourage niche sports, rather than dedicated facilities for one activity.