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Nearly half of 16-year-old girls put off sport by ‘ugly’ PE kit

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Almost half of UK 16-year-old girls say their fondness for sport and activity is being hampered by having to wear their school PE kit, according to new research.

A study carried out by Virgin Active to support its Active Inspiration campaign found that 39 per cent of girls, rising to 46 per cent among 16-year olds, said they enjoy being active but hate the PE kit. Meanwhile, 48 per cent of girls admit to making up excuses to get out of PE lessons and 28 per cent of 16-year old girls say they avoid sport as their PE kit makes them feel ugly so avoid sport.

The findings follow a recent cross-party parliamentary report that concluded a number of reforms must take place to make school sport more accessible to girls, and are the latest in a long line of studies outlining the barriers that conventional PE lessons pose to young females.

To tackle the issue of ‘ugly’ PE kits, Active Inspiration campaign partners the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation (WSFF) and Virgin Active have teamed up with designer Lexie Sport and a group of girls from Isle of Portland Aldridge Academy, where PE kit has been a barrier to girls taking part in physical activity. The girls were challenged by Lexie Sport founder Lily Rice to create their perfect PE kit, before choosing a winning design by 13-year old Emily Marshall.

The project found that simply changing the traditional PE kit of low-cut V-necked polo shirts, unflattering skirts or uncomfortable materials, to more modern leggings, high-necked collars and dark colours that hide sweat patches, could have a major impact in driving higher engagement with PE in school and help to foster active lifestyles among young girls. As a result, the headmaster at the Isle of Portland Aldridge Academy is committing to consulting with parents, ahead of instituting plans to change the school PE kit.

“Our research and insight tells us that while girls do want to be active, they have very different needs to boys,” said Women Sport and Fitness Foundation CEO Ruth Holdaway.

“This project not only highlights one of those key differences, but also delivers a clear and simple solution for schools and parents.”

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Almost half of UK 16-year-old girls say their fondness for sport and activity is being hampered by having to wear their school PE kit, according to new research.
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