Often in my blogs I have stressed the value of sport to a girl’s education. Sport, to me, has never been an add-on, nor do I view it as a means to coach girls to an elite sporting status. I see it as being fundamental to their learning and health.
This week, in my capacity of Chair of GSA Sports, I attended the Professional Association of Directors of Sport in Independent Schools annual conference, and listened to Nick Bitel, Chairman of Sport England, speak. He re-iterated why independent schools should care about sport, drawing on Public Health England’s research that found that young people’s participation in sport led to an 8% increase in numeracy in junior schools, and in the senior school pupils attained 10-20% higher GCSE scores. Sport promotes positive academic attitudes, better attendance and homework completion rates and improved memory and concentration.
These figures do not surprise me. I know that the girls who engage in sport have to be organised, disciplined with their time, know how to work collaboratively and, importantly, understand that failing leads to resilience and grit and a better learning outcome and performance next time.
What did surprise me, however, was the statistic that 10-year-olds today have a life expectancy five years lower than their parents. They are the first generation to have a falling life expectancy brought about by their sedentary life styles, developed in childhood and sustained into adulthood. This clip highlights the loss: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0oEeXs4FTXU
Never before as educators has it become important to help buck this trend. If we nurture sport at school it stimulates a long term engagement with sport and physical activity, developing sporting habits for life. If girls see sport as bringing lifelong benefits to their learning, their health and their well-being, then we as educators have done an important job.
Sport is for all, it is essential for all, which is why I am so proud of the sport we offer at BGS. We have over 1,000 fixtures a year for girls of all abilities and ages. Some of our girls have gone on to represent their country but more important to me is seeing them at the gym, running around the park or playing in a team long after they have left school.