As the Women’s World Cup beckons, Lisa Fathers, Director of Education at Bright Futures, has joined Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, and former England footballer, Karen Bardsley in their rallying call to get schools to do more to help girls get into football.
Lisa is proudly part of the first-ever Great Manchester Women’s Football Board (GMWFB) which was established just over a year ago to develop girls’ and women’s football at all levels, from increasing participation at a grassroots level to supporting teams in the FA Women’s Football pyramid. In fact, this year’s women’s FA Cup final set a new domestic attendance record of 77,390 when Chelsea beat Manchester United 1-0 at Wembley Stadium.
We know, through Sport England’s 2022 Active Lives survey, that 100,000 more girls are now playing football compared to 2017. Yet, only 63 per cent of schools across England offer girls equal access to football in PE, meaning a third of schoolgirls do not get the same opportunities as boys.
In Greater Manchester, just over 70% of schools are linked to a Barclays and FA Girls’ Football School Partnership through which they have access to training, resources and support for girls’ football. Over two thirds of these schools offer equal access to football in curriculum PE lessons for girls, but under half offer equal access for girls to do extracurricular football activities.
Lisa said: “As we look forward to the start of a new academic year, this is an opportune time for schools to review their current PE and extra-curricular offer and ensure that the opportunities for girls match those for boys.
“A high-quality PE offer is critical, hand in hand with equality opportunity to play football. At the GMWFB, we are urging schools to offer a minimum of two hours of PE to girls, per week, including football.
“We want girls to enjoy the benefits of sport and living an active life and we can do this by working together to meet our aim.”
Karen Bardsley, Chair of the Greater Manchester Women’s Football Board, said: “Every girl in Greater Manchester deserves the chance to play football at school and we’re determined to make that a reality here.
“From speaking to girls across the city-region I know how much confidence and enjoyment the sport can give, even leading to better attendance and performance in school.
“I’m proud to be working with Mayor Andy Burnham and the FA to help offer every girl in Greater Manchester the chance to follow in the footsteps of their heroes and become the next generation of Lionesses”
Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: “The Lionesses pledged to use their victory to create a lasting legacy for women’s football, and girls up and down the country will have been inspired to step out onto their school pitch, their local sports centre, or into their back garden and dream of playing for their country.
“That’s an opportunity that not all girls have at the moment, and that’s something we need to change.
“If we want Greater Manchester to be the home of even more footballing success for generations to come, let’s level the playing field and make sure every girl has the chance to play football and achieve their own dreams.”