Another milestone day for our household this week, as Flea went to her secondary school induction day.
I don’t think I was the only one who was overwhelmed. Faced with a big hall, unfamiliar teachers and lots of parents I didn’t recognise, I’ll confess to a gulp. Or three.
That’s not to say I’m not happy. I think I’m going to love Flea’s new school. The atmosphere is really positive and child-centred, and I’m impressed with how on the ball they are in supporting children in terms of confidence and emotional wellbeing.
But it’s a big change. Flea’s been at her current school since a few weeks after her third birthday. That’s almost eight years. Last night, she was a mixture of jitters and excitement.
Jitters, of course, because it’s an unknown. It’s a bigger school and there seem to be lots of rules and bits of kit to remember.
Then excitement because you can buy bacon sandwiches at break time, and there’s Taco Tuesday. Oh, and she can ride her bike to school with her friends Max and Charlie.
Oh, and the sport. Flea is super excited about the sport.
Girls at Flea’s new school get to play the usual hockey and netball, but there’s also a climbing club, basketball, rugby and football (for starters). The activities are open to anyone who wants a go.
Flea’s current school has a great school sport programme, but this year many of the extra-curricular sports were ‘selective’ – meaning only the most able kids got to take part.
It infuriates me (and I’m not writing anything here I haven’t talked about already to the school) because to my mind, the very kids who NEED the extra encouragement to have a go at sport and be given the chance to enjoy it are those kids to whom it might not come naturally.
So we’ve worked hard this year to give Flea access to sport outside school. Each weekend she goes to climbing club, and karate. Once a week there’s junior lifeguarding club, and she’s out sailing once a week with scouts. Then there’s the usual bike riding, skateboarding and the like.
Those activities work wonders for Flea’s fitness and physical health, of course, but they’re also boosting her confidence, her team-working skills, and her mental and emotional wellbeing. It’s SO important, and especially at this age.
Research conducted by Always – the brand behind the brilliant #LikeaGirl campaign – found that 50% of girls think they become more self-conscious and negative about their bodies during puberty. More than a third think that boys are naturally better at sport than girls. Meanwhile, 67% say they don’t think society encourages girls to play sport.
Is it any wonder that Always found that 64% of girls have quit sport by the time they’re 17?
I’m lucky that this past year hasn’t dented Flea’s enthusiasm for sport, or her sense of enjoyment. She doesn’t worry (yet) that she’s not the best, or if she isn’t winning. She’s happy to be getting better, and I think sports like karate and climbing allow her to compete against herself, and focus on reaching her own goals and targets.
But I think schools and parents need to work together to ensure the message is getting through to girls that sport is something they should be involved in. Something that’s fun and empowering and positive.
Girls need to know that their sporting achievements are valued and celebrated, at whatever level. As parents too, perhaps we need to try harder to show girls female sporting role models (including ourselves!).
Flea knows that I’ll have a go at most things.
I might not be very good, or particularly fit, but I’ll always try, because I want her to see it’s better to try and be bad than not to try. Which is lucky, because honestly, I’m bad at a spectacular range of sports (just ask anyone who saw my last attempt at stand-up paddle boarding).
If you loved the previous Always videos from the #LikeaGirl campaign then I do recommend checking out the latest video, which encourages girls (and women, of course) to keep playing #LikeaGirl. Quite so.
Oh, and if you fancy it, here’s Flea sharing her thoughts on starting secondary school: