Changes to “strict, inflexible” school uniform policies which hinder physical activity, especially among girls and young women, are recommended in a new report to the Government published last week.
The Report of the Youth Stakeholder Forum on Sport was published on Monday, 5 December 2022 and recommends that a “physical activity-friendly” approach should be taken to school uniform policy.
The Report findings are based on a forum convened by the Minister of State with responsibility for Gaeltacht and Sport, Jack Chambers in May of this year. The report is compiled from insights from 100 young people who took part in online and in-person meetings over the last two years, exploring what helps or hinders young people’s participation in sport.
The Report notes that “strict, inflexible uniforms and school dress policies were cited as being an impediment in many cases to achieving greater physical activity by young people”. It was considered to be an issue “for girls and young women especially”, according to the report, although boys and young men agreed that such policies “also made it difficult for them to lead an active life and be engaged in physical activity in school”. The Report goes further to state that, “Promoting active travel to and from school, whether by cycling or walking, was not being helped in this context.”
It also found that students were “frustrated with the insufficient amount of time and the scope of PE activities” available in schools, with only a handful of sports – often major field sports – focused on. The Report also suggested, “There was too much emphasis on team sports, more attention should be given to individual or less popular sports”. In particular, sports for women and girls were “not given equal attention or resources in many schools”. “The priority was being given to sports played by boys with girls’ sports losing out as a result.”
Clearly, more needs to be done to move away from policies that create a gender divide in sports participation among young people.