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News26th June 2024

Empowering girls in sport across Ark

Ark Sport was launched in 2022, with funding from the Salesforce Foundation, to ensure every Ark school has a vibrant sports culture that boosts wellbeing and nurtures talent. We believe in the power of sport to empower young people both physically and mentally.
Girls from Ark schools compete at the Ark Athletics Championship

Nationally, girls don’t participate or achieve in sport at the same level as boys – and through Ark Sport we are working to change that. Girls represent only 35 percent of GCSE PE candidates. Only 64 percent say they enjoy sport at school, compared to 86 percent of boys, according to the Youth Sport Trust’s survey. They are less active than boys at all ages, with engagement dropping sharply in secondary school due to fear of being judged and lack of confidence. 

Empowering girls in sport is one way that we can help them unlock opportunities in their lives. Surveys of female senior executives show they are more likely to have competed in sports, and that playing sport helped them develop attributes for success.

 Ark schools are fostering inclusive cultures where girls can take part in a wide range of sports. In network-wide competitions which bring our schools together, girls compete alongside boys. Thirty-one girls are receiving dedicated training in their chosen sports through an Ark Sport scholarship.

The programme is starting to yield results. At Ark Alexandra, girls now make up 57 percent of the GCSE cohort – and 92 percent of girls gained at least a 4+ pass in PE last year, compared to 76 percent nationally.  

A theme running through every strand of Ark Sport is that it will promote increased uptake and enjoyment of girls in sports at all levels. 

Alexandra students at the Ark Athletics Championships

Elizabeth Poole, Head of PE at in Hastings, believes creating a safe and comfortable environment for girls to participate in sports is essential.

“I am very proud of what we’re doing at our school to encourage more girls into sport. We have a sizeable extracurricular provision, which covers a variety of sports open to students of all abilities for free. This ensures opportunities are available to those who otherwise wouldn’t have access. We also run single-sex classes alongside PE lessons, so students feel comfortable.” 

Sport helps with mental health and developing soft skills, but it’s also how young people discover who they are and what they enjoy.

Elizabeth Poole Head of PE at Ark Alexandra

Participating in Ark Sport network-wide events takes students further afield. This allows students to meet and compete against their peers from other Ark schools, to discover new places, and to build their confidence, teamwork, and leadership skills.

Elizabeth says: “Sport helps with mental health and developing soft skills, but it’s also how young people discover who they are and what they enjoy. We must continue to invest in girls’ futures, remove barriers, and provide equal school and grassroots sports opportunities. Sports should be a regular part of life for girls.” 

Year 11 GCSE PE student Bridget added, “We’re told there are girls’ sports and boys’ sports: girls play netball and boys play football. I feel that’s something we should step away from. At our school, we’ve got a good girls’ football team. Lots of girls enjoy playing and going to the fixtures. It teaches you that you can do anything you put your mind to. That’s an important skill for us to learn. If we want to do something, then we should be able to. Nothing is stopping us from doing that.” 

The Ark Sport programme

We believe in the power of sport to help young people be both physically and mentally healthy.