Championing Inclusion in Sport

Anna Scott and Paul Webb

Head of Female Health and Sport and Deputy Head of Junior School Sport and Exercise at Highgate School

Read the blog

National School Sports Week 2024 is here and this year’s theme is 60 minutes a day of PE, sport and play.

We absolutely love this – the sentiment reflects our ethos at Highgate and represents an aspiration we must all support and champion in our schools. At the heart of Highgate’s approach to sport is our commitment to inclusivity, participation and enjoyment. We wholeheartedly believe that every pupil should have the opportunity to discover the joy of physical activity, build confidence and friendships and explore their talent and limits.

As leaders in Sport and Education, we aim to provide pupils with a broad range of sporting experiences to foster a lifelong love of sport and exercise. By offering a large variety of sports, we promote flexibility and choice, allowing students to find their passions that will last beyond their time at school. With this in mind, our sports programme is designed to engage and excite students with new opportunities: inter and intra sporting opportunities, a strong co-curricular offering, and House sporting events. These activities help raise participation levels through fun, enjoyable and progressive weekly activities.

We are particularly proud of our new initiative: “Highgate Her Way,” which supports female pupils in their journey through sport, addressing challenges that young women often face. lnclusivity is central to the success of this project, and we have also introduced “Highgate His Way” and “Highgate Their Way” to provide a platform for all students to play a pivotal role in shaping our long-term strategy. We aim to integrate sport, especially for young girls, into the fabric of our school day, ensuring that all pupils feel adequately educated and well-equipped to take on the responsibility of championing accessibility to sport for all pupils throughout their time at Highgate.

We are acutely aware that in order to progress we need to address some basics: national statistics show that the dropout rate of young girls in sport stands at approximately 65%- this is double the rate of boys – and perhaps most concerning, of the 35% who remain in sport, about one in three don’t meet minimum fitness standards. Our female health initiative provides a platform for students to have those ‘braver’ conversations, discuss ‘awkward’ topics, and give young girls – and those supporting them – the tools to successfully navigate puberty with confidence.

Peer power is a huge part of our project. Older pupils actively support younger girls and boys through puberty, sharing their experiences (good and bad) to empower, validate and build confidence. We are working closely with departments across the foundation to ensure our efforts support equality and diversity, and we remain steadfast in our commitment to embedding this curriculum across the Pre-Prep, Junior and Senior Schools. Our plans include community engagement through educational workshops, facility and curriculum development, promoting sustainable practices in our initiatives, and integrated learning approaches to having co-educational discussions around female and male health that will create a legacy of informed and empowered students.

We are challenging the social expectations that girls should ‘play nicely’, ‘avoid getting dirty’ or stay away from rough and tumble activities: this is something that we want our girls to do. Starting next academic year, all our Pre-Prep and Junior School pupils will wear sports kit, as their primary uniform if they so wish, to foster a love of physical activity from an early age. We want our pupils to enjoy being active and continue with sport beyond school, and this begins by eliminating stereotypes and stigmas around sport engagement from an early age.

While focusing on female pupils, we must also ensure our male pupils are not left behind. At its core, sport is about joy and freedom, and we want all our pupils to enjoy being active, regardless of their abilities. Women in Sport published an article recently that spoke about stereotypes affecting young girls’ ability to dream in sport and we thought this was incredibly apt for all our students, not only girls. Yes, ultimately, stereotypes are particularly limiting for young girls in sport, but to foster and encourage a generation of agents for change in sport, all our students should feel there is nothing stopping them from being themselves and pursuing what they love.

National School Sports Week is a celebration of the transformative power of sport. From enhancing physical fitness to boosting mental health and fostering community, the benefits of regular physical activity are immense. As we highlight the innovative programs and initiatives, we are looking at here at Highgate, we are reminded of sport’s vital role in nurturing well-rounded, resilient, and happy pupils.


20 June 2024