I always look forward to returning in school in September. Over the summer the school is often engaged in new building works where we develop and enhance the fabric of the school. This summer was no different and critically important to me was the redevelopment of our sports area this summer. I feel passionately that girls should retain from school life-long habits that encourage them to remain engaged in sports and fitness after their compulsory PE lessons have ended. Too many women on leaving school do not continue with their sport nor do they maintain their fitness. Schools are often blamed for this. Jennie Price, CEO of Sport England, cited poor sporting facilities as a contributing factor.
It was therefore very important to me that our sports area reflected the needs of the 21st century woman rather than remain a legacy of the PT programme that was introduced at the turn of the 20th century. The facilities need to be modern, feminine and bright. Our renovation programme over the summer achieved just that. We stripped away the old-fashioned bars (that were used by the sports staff as drying racks) took down the sisal ropes that grandmothers of our current pupils remembered from their school days and brought in modern up to date equipment that are found in the fitness centres across Britain. By inducting our girls on how to use these facilities it means that when they go to university or into the world of work they have the confidence to join gyms across the country. Traditionally women have often been reluctant to join gyms that tend to be frequented more by men because they lack the experience of using the equipment. By having this knowledge and confidence to use the gyms our girls will remain engaged in a fitness programme beyond the school that will give them the physical strength and stamina to cope with modern life.
The quality of the changing room also affects girls’ enjoyment of sport at school. If the changing rooms are dingy, smelly and old it will affect how the girls feel after they have trained. Bright, private facilities are more comfortable and therefore more engaging after a tough workout on the field or in the pool. To this end we revamped the rooms. We improved the drainage, the décor and most importantly removed the old showers and replaced them with individual cubicles to give the girls changing room privacy. The feedback has been good.
I appreciate, however, that facilities are only part of the story of girls’ engagement in sport. Passionate, committed, encouraging PE staff and coaches who act as role models play a far more significant role. At BGS we are very fortunate indeed that we have this. Our PE staff have represented their country in swimming, triathlons, rowing and lacrosse. It is no wonder that this has encouraged our girls to follow their sporting dreams to the highest level with BGS girls this year representing England in lacrosse, hockey and rowing. It is equally rewarding to see former pupils return from university to play our girls at sport, having continued with their sport long after they have left school.
Sport has a long successful tradition at BGS, with the improved facilities I know this tradition will continue well into 21st century.