Devon schools to take part in brand-new NETBALLHer PE lesson Pilot

Several secondary schools across Devon will take part in a brand-new pilot initiative which will deliver education on female health through PE lessons.

The pilot, co-designed by England Netball and Swansea University, is a three-week lesson plan that is being trialled thanks to Active Devon, with netball embedded throughout, which will educate secondary school-aged pupils on the menstrual cycle, breast health and share knowledge on how they can maintain activity levels during their teenage years.

Linked to England Netball’s industry-leading education programme on women’s health, NETBALLHer, the pilot aims to empower teachers to provide education on this area and help reduce the number of girls who drop out of sport during puberty.

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64% of active pre-teen girls in the UK will leave sport by the end of puberty. The menstrual cycle has a huge impact on female activity levels and on those dropping out of sport or not taking part.

The initiative comes just three weeks after a new Puberty section was unveiled on the NETBALLHer website and aims to support teachers to provide education in this area and the reasons why, and how the menstrual cycle does not need to hold girls back from taking part in sport.

The pilot will be delivered across a six-week period and 14 schools across Devon have already expressed an interest in taking part.

Kelly Gordon, Director of Development and Executive Lead for NETBALLHer at England Netball, said: “We are super excited to be doing a pilot in Devon which brings the two worlds together, education and sport, to work with secondary schools to help address the drop out during puberty.

“There are a number of life stages that impact female lives both on and beyond the court and during these vulnerable times, women and girls are more likely to worry about showing up authentically, and stop playing, just when they need support the most. We need to help them to understand their bodies to help prevent that dropout.”

Dr Natalie Brown, a Research Officer based at Swansea University, added: “My area of research is all around the menstrual cycle, participation in physical activity and sport performance. We’ve created a team to help provide some solutions and support in terms of menstrual education and being able to stay active during puberty and during PE, with a special focus on netball.

“The schools’ pilot is starting in November, and we are offering menstrual education lessons, with a focus on staying active, movement and specifically within netball and how we can use that platform to try and help support girls to stay active during puberty and change that figure relating to the drop out that we do see.”

Karen Jones, Partnerships Manager at Active Devon, who are supporting the pilot, added: “We are delighted we have been able to bring this fabulous initiative to Devon schools. It’s very important for women and girls of all ages in Devon to be active and take part in sport and not to have any health worries which prevent them from taking part and being active. We know that being active is great not only for their physical health but for their mental health.

“We’ve heard from England Netball about issues that stop teenage girls from taking part in PE but netball and other activities can enrich the lives of women from five to 95 and across their life stages they will face a number of hurdles that will hold them back. At Active Devon, we want women and girls to show up and take part in whatever activity they enjoy, on and off the court, and we encourage all women and girls to be active for their physical and mental health.”

The pilot will be followed by a focus group delivered by Swansea University and is hoped to be delivered more widely across the UK next year. If any secondary schools in Devon wish to get involved, there is an online webinar available on 9 November 2023, 4- 5pm. Click here to find out more.

For more information about the menstrual cycle, sports bras or another area of women’s health, visit netballher.co.uk

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