Lionesses urge leadership candidates to ensure girls can play football at school

Fiona Simpson
Wednesday, August 3, 2022

England’s Lionesses have written to the Conservative leadership candidates urging them to ensure all girls have increased access sports, including football, in their PE lessons following their Euros victory over Germany.

The Lionesses' Euros success has sparked a campaign for equal access to football for girls. Picture: England Football
The Lionesses' Euros success has sparked a campaign for equal access to football for girls. Picture: England Football

The open letter to Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss, signed by all 23 members of England Senior Women’s Euro squad, calls on the next Prime Minister to “to ensure that all girls have access to a minimum of two hours a week PE.

“Not only should we be offering football to all girls, we also need to invest in and support female PE teachers too.

“Their role is crucial, and we need to give them the resources to provide girls' football sessions. They are key role models from which so many young girls can flourish,” the letter adds.

The team, who beat Germany 2 – 1 in the finals of the Women’s Euros 2022 at Wembley, highlight figures from England Football, part of the FA, which show just 63 per cent of girls are currently offered football as an option in PE at school.

“This is something that we all experienced growing up. We were often stopped from playing. So we made our own teams, we travelled across the country and despite the odds, we just kept playing football. Women's football has come a long way. But it still has a long way to go,” the letter states.

“Throughout the Euros, we as a team spoke about our legacy and goal to inspire a nation. Many will think that this has already been achieved, but we see this as only the beginning. We are looking to the future. We want to create real change in this country and we are asking you, if you were to become Prime Minister on 5 September, to help us achieve that change,” it adds.

In a separate letter, Labour's shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson has accused the government of "failing to seize this moment to ensure girls can play football at school".

In a letter to Education Secretary James Cleverly, Phillipson calls for an "equal access guarantee" for school sport.

She asks Cleverly, who was appointed to the post last month, if the Department for Education "will seize on this historic moment and to set out an 'Equal Access Guarantee', so girls and boys have equal opportunity to play and enjoy different sports in school?"

Phillipson adds that she is "seriously concerned that under your leadership, the Department for Education is refusing to support equal access to sport in schools" and goes on to criticise its "outdated commitment that pupils will have access to a 'comparable sporting activity'".

"This limits the options of boys and girls and does nothing to break down traditional access barriers. The government should be playing an active role in building a world where no child is excluded from a sport their schoolmates are playing. Will you set out new guidance and best practice examples to support schools to implement an Equal Access Guarantee?" the letter states.

Phillipson calls on government to match the FA's pledge for all girls to have equal access to football in school by 2024 but raises further concerns that ministers are "neglecting children's sports altogether" noting that children's activity levels have not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels.

In response to the Lionesses' letter, Cleverly wrote on Twitter: "Cannot express how proud I was watching you win.

"Very keen to see how we can get more girls playing sport in general and football in particular in our schools. More than happy to meet and discuss how to take this forward."

Meanwhile, the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) has said it would be a “good idea” for the government to review guidance on what sporting activities schools should offer boys and girls, according to TES magazine.

Sunak and Truss are the last remaining candidates to replace Boris Johnson as leader of the Conservative Party and as Prime Minister following his resignation last month.

The winner of the leadership bid will be announced on 5 September.

Following the Lionesses’ win at Wembley, charity leaders working in the children and young people’s sector were among those calling for equal access to football for girls.

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