Exclusive: Minister for Sport Mims Davies pledges to increase participation numbers among girls and women (Jeremy Wilson - Telegraph, March 2019)
Mims Davies, the Minister for Sport, has pledged to make increased participation among young girls and women, and a transformation in the visibility of elite sportswomen, cornerstones of a new Government drive for sport.
In her first national newspaper interview since succeeding Tracey Crouch, Davies outlined how a cross-departmental school sport action plan this spring would target worryingly low activity trends among children, especially young girls. She also praised The Daily Telegraph’s “brilliant, leading” revolution in its coverage of women’s sport.
Sport England’s Active Lives survey found last December that only 17.5 per cent of children aged between five and 16 are meeting the Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines of more than 60 minutes of activity every day. Girls were found to be significantly less active; a finding consistent with similar research by the Youth Sports Trust, which reported in 2017 that fewer than 10 per cent of females aged up to 18 were meeting the recommendation.
Davies described the findings each a “wake-up call for the sector” and, as part of tackling this “huge challenge”, has called for physical literacy to be given the same status at school as maths or English.
“We are really concerned about the inactivity of our youngsters,” said Davies. “If you don’t get a sporting habit for life when you come through school, it is more difficult to come back.
“We want a balance of sports and activity, physical literacture and well-being. As a minimum schools must ensure children are physically literate. It is just as important that parents encourage kids to be active as it is to read them books or do times tables.
“As parents, we have to not only think about their safety and opportunity, but their activities. Are they doing enough? Are they getting outside in the fresh air? Go out. Get muddy. Be adventurous. Children need to learn how to run, jump, throw, catch. Those basics will allow them to thrive in broader ways.
“If we don’t sort out participation – across schools, communities, governing bodies and making this a Government priority – we end up picking up the pieces in the Health Service anyway.”
Davies also cited a recent question-and-answer session with children in Hampshire. “One young girl put her hand up and told me that she wasn’t allowed to play rugby at school and that it wasn’t fair and equal. I think it is really important for schools to look at what availability there is.
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