Sport matters for life lessons as well as fitness, says Headteacher

Research shows girls are far less likely than boys to be physically active – so it’s very important for schools to encourage them to participate in sport, even if they are not naturally sporty individuals.

That was the message from Sydenham High’s Headteacher, Kathryn Pullen, in advance of the GDST’s Annual Conference in London on Wednesday 11 June, which is taking the theme of: ‘On your marks… the role of sport in a balanced education.’

“It’s not just a question of physical fitness,” said Mrs Pullen. “Sport plays an important role in developing confidence, resilience and leadership. It helps girls and young women to become less conscious of how they are seen, and more focused on achieving a goal, either individually or as part of a team – as GDST chief executive Helen Fraser will say at our Annual Conference.”

Year 4 pupils have been finding this out for themselves this week on their Summer outward bounds trip to Stubbers Activity Centre.  Set in 130 acres of grounds to the east of London, Stubbers offers children of all ages the opportunity to learn and develop social and interpersonal skills and confidence through participation in adventurous activities. The girls are having a fantastic time tackling many challenges and thoroughly enjoying themselves, as this selection of photos sent back to school shows. Activities on offer include: kayaking, orienteering, high ropes and all terrain boarding.

“Nationally, girls start doing less activity than boys as soon as they’re eight or nine,” added Mrs Pullen. “By the time they’re 14, only 12 per cent of girls are as active as they should be. At Sydenham High, we believe in a twin-track strategy that not only promotes excellence in natural young sportswomen, through our elite athlete support programme, but that also finds ways to encourage those who find sport less appealing or more challenging.”

Sydenham High has a busy and varied sports programme for its pupils that engages them at all ages and at all levels of competence. Alongside netball, hockey, athletics and swimming, girls have the opportunity to involve themselves rugby, football and cricket plus physical activities as diverse as dance, trampolining, rock climbing and scuba diving.

“There are life lessons to be learned in sport,” concluded Mrs Pullen “Yes, it’s about fitness, but it’s also about the ability to tackle the future unafraid.  Our own motto here at Sydenham High means ‘fear nothing’ – or as we say these days ‘go for it’ – so we’re proud to see girls leaving us ready to take on the world and any challenge it might have in store for them.”