Girls Network: Primaries added to activity project
A project set up to boost wellbeing and activity levels in teenage girls is being extended to primary age children in order to catch issues earlier.
The Girls Network operates at all secondary schools in Bridgend county and has girls deciding on activities and encouraging others to join in.
The programme also works on body image, self-esteem and equal opportunities.
It was set up after a survey found a drop-off in girls’ activity around the age of 14.
Karen Winch, from Bridgend council’s Active Young People Department, said of the network’s origins: “We kept putting on lots of opportunities but no-one ever turned up. We realised unless we broke down the barriers of self-esteem and confidence, we would never make a difference.”
Questionnaires revealed some of the issues facing girls included aspiration, confidence and friendships.
Her colleague Amie Lea, who coordinates the Girls’ Network, said: “The first big change was the kit they had to wear in school. They weren’t comfortable in wearing the kit – skorts or certain leggings.”
After consulting, girls proposed being able to wear either tracksuit bottoms or leggings of their choice, perhaps with branded school t-shirts. In some schools, Girls Network took up the issue themselves with management and, as a result, secondary schools in the borough have altered their gym-wear policy.
Now the programme is being piloted in three primary schools – Betws, Nantymoel and Brynmenyn – which feed into Coleg Y Dderwen secondary in Tondu.
The leaders said they realised the fall in activity was happening at a younger age.
Ms Winch said: “We decided to go down [to primary level] because we thought there might be issues. We felt our participation numbers were actually falling to Year 8 [age 12-13] not just Year 9, so we decided to roll this out in primary school.”
As a result of the network, a charity has been set up called Girl Power CIO to build on the work done by the network.
Jasmine King, 19, now a Girl Power leader, first got involved with Girls’ Network when she was 14 after she was invited to join the group by Amie Lea while she was a pupil at Cynffig Comprehensive in Kenfig Hill.
“I remember the meeting we had when we were trying to get new members to join the network group. When we did the surveys we found out the girls wanted to do swimming lessons and gym, so I took a group of young girls in Key Stage 3 down to the local Halo leisure centre.
“It was their first time in the gym. I remember speaking to one of the girls and they’d never been before so I had to explain how to use some of the equipment.
“We were very lucky that the first day we went, there was nobody in there so they felt comfortable because it was quiet.”
Ms King said she remembered feeling proud following that first experience. “They’d never done it before and I felt like I’d improved them in some way, even if it’s just going down the gym. It was rewarding for me, very rewarding.”