Head's blog - May (2) 2023
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The positive benefits that sport and exercise can bring are well known, from supporting mental wellbeing, to being a great way to make friends and have fun, and of course, helping to keep us physically fit. Sport is also important for helping to foster key life skills such as leadership, collaboration and teamwork. Students grow in confidence and enthusiasm, and this feeds into their success and energy in other areas of their school experience. Learning to win and lose gracefully, be committed to a team, to be disciplined and focussed; these are all essential skills that support academic success and a healthy balanced approach to life’s challenges. Read more about studying physical education at Blackheath High.
At the Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST), we believe that there is a sport for everyone. We are committed to offering a diverse range of sports and give our girls the opportunity to try as many sports as possible in the hope that they will find something that they love and will enjoy for life. In addition to well-loved, more ‘traditional’ sports such as netball and hockey, recent additions include cricket, football, tag rugby, dance, yoga, Zumba and boxing. By diversifying sport in this way, we are making sport more accessible to a greater number of girls and ensuring that we are not losing the interest of those who have not found an affinity with ‘traditional’ sports. Uptake has been extremely encouraging including a reversal of the trend for girls to give up on sport around GCSEs.
We are also committed to extending our widening sports offerings to the local community. All GDST schools have initiatives that enable other students from local schools to participate. At Blackheath High School, for example, we host an annual Sports Partnership Day with neighbouring primary schools to promote good health through participation in sport. Through this day, we aim to help establish and cement an understanding that participation in sport should be life-long, not just for school. Students learn more about what they can achieve, how to improve across all areas of PE, and develop an understanding of the health benefits of participating in sport.
At the GDST, we are lucky to be able to provide unrivalled sporting opportunities and have talented staff that put so much time and energy into encouraging our girls to be active, have fun and enjoy sport and activity at the very highest levels. Beyond the offerings of individual schools, the GDST is unique as a network for the quality of the sports it provides. From a hockey residential with Olympic gold medal winner Kate Richardson-Walsh OBE to a golf rally or a Day of Dance at Pineapple Dance studio, our girls benefit from a packed schedule of rallies and tournaments that are organised by our Sports Matters Committee every year. In addition to ensuring that these events are of the highest quality and standard possible, the Committee also considers ways in which we can continue to drive excellence in our provision across the GDST.
As a family of schools, we benefit from shared expertise, ideas and support for each other. Every year, the Directors of Sports from each GDST school meet at a Sports Matters conference to share expertise and inspiration, and celebrate everything we are achieving as the GDST sporting family. Staff also attend a series of workshops to assure their own professional development. For this year’s conference which was hosted at Blackheath High School, there were workshops on topics such as ‘Mentoring elite athletes in a school context’ and a netball coaching session with Amanda Newton, former England captain and Blackheath High School PE teacher.
What is next on our sporting agenda? The GDST is reviewing the growth of cricket within our schools, working with ‘Cricket for Girls’, an organisation focussed upon providing high quality female role models and coaches to drive the growth of female cricket. We are launching ‘Cricket Hubs’ across the country and working with ex-England players like Lydia Greenway to provide first class coaching to staff and girls. Not only is this a great way to help upskill staff but the coaches also provide inspirational role models to girls. There is nothing like ‘seeing is believing’ when it comes to thinking about what you can achieve in your chosen sport.
At the GDST, our whole approach to school life is to encourage girls to take risks and ‘have a go’ - it is no different for sport. We want to help girls find their passion and a sport that they truly enjoy. I cannot pretend that our girls love every sport that is put in front of them, but they certainly seem to enjoy having a go. With women’s sport finally coming into the spotlight nationally, girls are being inspired by elite female athletes reaching the top of their game. They are realising and quite rightly, wanting to take advantage of the many opportunities that are available to them – on and off the pitch.