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Girls Active - UEL Sports Dock

On Friday 31st January, 132 girls from eleven Newham Primary Schools took part in a Girls Active sports event organised and  run by The Tapscott Learning Trust’s Sports Hub, and held at the University of East London Sports Dock. 

The tri-annual event aims to promote female sports participation and enjoyment to primary aged children, in order to improve girls’ fitness, increase participation, challenge stereotypes and raise the profile of women in sport.

The Girls Active event takes place three times a year at a range of sporting venues across East London, and it is now in its third progressive year. 

The first Girls Active event was held in September 2017 at New Vic College. In January 2015, the first Lottery Funded “This Girl Can” ad aired. The campaign was created as a response to Sport England's Active People Survey, which reported that in 2014 there were two million fewer women participating in sports than men, despite over 75% of women aged 14–40 saying that they would like to exercise more. Alongside the highly successful multimedia campaign, funding was provided to schools - however this funding was predominantly aimed at secondary schools. 

Tapscott Sports Hub director, Paul Belcher and Girls Active Ambassador, Carly Tully, co-organisers of Girls Active, wanted to take this same approach - but at the primary age phase:  “The earlier we get in, the better. When we started the Sports Hub - we had the ideal opportunity to run girls festivals.” 

In its three years, the event has grown and developed. It now has a more competitive edge, in response to overwhelming feedback from the girls involved. Friday’s event was the first athletics based competition, in which bronze, gold and silver awards were given. The number of schools participating in the event has risen from five to eleven. And this is the first time the event has been held at UEL Sports Dock, a venue which was built for the American Olympic Team in the run up to the London Olympics in 2012. 

Carly Tully, the Girls Active Trust Ambassador, is dedicated to pushing the promotion of girls sports back into schools. Five girls from each of the schools involved are chosen as “Girls Active Ambassadors,” with the aim of taking the ethos of the Girls Active events, back into their primary schools. These pupils, marked out as leaders by their pink sports bibs, act as young role models in their schools, running sports activities in clubs and at playtimes and encouraging their female peers to get involved in physical activities during day to day school life. 

A year 6 pupil from Kensington primary school described her feelings about the need for girls-only sports events. "With the boys, we get left out a bit. The boys never pass to us. When it's just girls, we get the opportunity to take part."

Sports lead at North Beckton Primary School, Graham Sparrowhawk, believes that this is a problem that the Girls Active initiative is beginning to change: "The girls might be the best players, but the boys tend to dominate. The best shooter we have is a girl… now she has the confidence to push herself forward."