NETBALL and running have been replaced by dance and Zumba at a city school in a new bid to encourage girls to take part in PE classes.
Leith Academy has also bought hair dryers and mirrors for the changing rooms and put up curtains on the cubicles, offering girls more privacy and the chance to do their hair and make-up after exercising.
And the female-friendly measures don’t stop there as a gym in the school has been turned into a dance studio – painted pink – which offers classes such as boxercise and Zumba.
Scott Pye, the school’s principal PE teacher, said the measures were brought in following a survey of girls to see what would encourage them to take part and had already proved to be a success.
He said: “None of it is rocket science, but it’s simple things that make a difference to girls.”
Another measure the school has put in place to make PE a more attractive prospect is to increase the amount of time the girls have to get changed and showered after lessons.
They are also given “same sex” classes for things such as gymnastics and swimming, and are allowed to wear T-shirts over their swim wear if they feel uncomfortable. Mr Pye said the initiative has boosted extra-curricular activity amongst girls through a series of classes after school, including girls swimming groups, cheerleading and girls-only basketball teams.
But one of the biggest differences he has noticed is in the attitude of girls taking PE classes in school hours.
He said: “Most classes now have 100 per cent participation. Before, in a class of 20, four or five weren’t taking part. Some of them were opting out because they didn’t feel it was cool or they weren’t motivated.
“They used every excuse under the sun – they had forgotten their kits, they’d got their period, their kit was in the wash, they’d brought everything except their trainers.
“There’s definitely been a change in that respect.”
However, despite the improvements the school has seen, Leith Academy is still failing to meet national guidelines, which state each pupil should get two hours of PE in school time every week.
Last year, pupils in S1-4 fell just short of the target, receiving an hour and 45 minutes of PE per week, whereas those in S5-6 only received half an hour.
Mr Pye admitted: “There’s certainly a long way still to go and the national picture is disgraceful, but we are seeing the positives in our school.”
S4 pupil Nicole Wright said many of her friends have a new-found enjoyment of PE now that the school has brought in the changes and she is impressed with the new dance studio.
The 15-year-old said: “We have got hairdryers and mirrors now and if we have swimming we get to leave early to make sure we have time to dry our hair. That’s quite a big deal for most girls.
“The teachers are a bit more laid back and we don’t have a set uniform for PE now so it makes you want to take part more. Everybody likes doing PE a lot more now.”
Leith Academy’s Fit For Girls initiative earned it a place in this year’s council achievement awards. City education leader, Councillor Marilyne MacLaren, said: “It is heartening to see Leith Academy provide an innovative approach, helping to engage the girls, ensuring that they can thoroughly enjoy PE.”
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