The most powerful people working with girls, is girls
The positive role modelling of our students creates an uplifting and motivating School culture
Baroness Sue Campbell, the former Physical Education teacher and Chairman of UK Sport, who provided the strategy behind the British athletes’ spectacular performance at the 2012 Olympics, delivered a fiery address at the Global Forum on Girls Education in New York recently.
The woman credited with masterminding the Team GB’s record medal haul claimed Britain had failed to use the Olympics to create ‘transformational change’ in society. Despite Britain’s elite athletes now having a high performance system – amongst the best in the world, in other areas – such as grassroots sport, volunteering and women’s’ participation in exercise – Britain has not secured a legacy. Speaking more broadly and beyond Great Britain’s recent sporting woes, Baroness Campbell shared her research highlighting health and wellness as key factors underpinning academic performance. Recent studies have made significant strides towards proving beyond doubt that regular sport and activity produces: healthy, happy, academically successful, socially adept and future equipped young people. Such research is particularly important when placed alongside a recent collation of studies investigating the link between physical activity and academic performance revealing a positive relationship between the two. The United Nations, for example, finds participation in sporting activities may increase numeracy scores, on average, by 8% beyond that of non-participants. A perceived link between emotional wellbeing and sport/physical activity is also a feature of Campbell’s research.
Those who described themselves as “always happy” were twice as likely to take part in two or more hours of physical activity per day, and three times as likely to be a member of a school sports club, than those who say they are mostly unhappy. Strong majorities said they felt better about themselves after participating in sport (64%). Campbell went on to describe the class of 2035, citing issues such as a digitally distracted generation of children sedated by exposure to digital devices, coupled with an emergence of emotional challenges as significant concerns for the children of tomorrow and, in particular, young women. Campbell believed there is a clear need to “educate young women that feeling physically and mentally well is a platform for learning”; Baroness Campbell also clearly believed in the strength of girls stating “the most powerful people working with girls, is girls!”
I would like to think at St Catherine’s we are bucking the British trends outlined in Baroness Campbell’s research and, as a School, we are securing a legacy of high participation rates in sport. This year, we have a record number of girls Rowing with Year 9 girls training alongside our currently very successful Senior crews. I believe this epitomises the notion outlined by Campbell that being: “the most powerful people working with girls, is girls.” The positive role modelling from our Senior students is so very visible in sport – their enthusiasm, coach–athlete rapport, determination, teamwork, laughter and cooperation is clearly apparent.
This, of course, is repeated in the Junior School as well and I reminded our recently inducted Year 6 Leaders in Assembly this week of their role with the younger Barbreck students, their participation in Junior Joggers, Swimming Squad and After School Sport establishes a culture of participation, enjoyment and commitment. A School culture that is maintained as they transition into our Senior School.