Brought to you by Newscorp Australia

Sporting chance for girls better without co-ed PE classes

Susie O’Brien, November 24, 2021 6:30PM Kids News

Print Article

New research shows girls like St Aidan's Anglican Girls' School students Abigail Jones, 14, Lily Holt, 14, Rhani Hagan, 15 and Jazelle Carter, 15. are more active and participate more in single sex PE classes. Picture: Zak Simmonds media_cameraNew research shows girls like St Aidan's Anglican Girls' School students Abigail Jones, 14, Lily Holt, 14, Rhani Hagan, 15 and Jazelle Carter, 15. are more active and participate more in single sex PE classes. Picture: Zak Simmonds


Reading level: orange

Girls in co-ed sports classes are less physically active and more conscious* of their bodies than those in single-sex groups, a study has found. Not only are girls worried about how they look in their sports uniform, they believe boys pass the ball more often to male peers.

US researchers monitored 85 students aged 12 to 13 and found girls in single-sex basketball lessons had higher heart rates and moved more than those in co-ed classes.

Many girls said the boys did not pass the ball to them in class because they did not believe that they were “good” at the sport, said lead author of the report, Dr Crystal Vargos of Illinois State University.

“Males tended to pass to one another as opposed to passing to a female, even if a female was open during the game,” Dr Vargos said. “This suggests that during basketball it might be more ideal for females to participate in a single-sex setting to elicit* more activity.”

QLD_CM_NEWS_GIRLSPORT media_cameraGrade 9 students from St Aidan’s Anglican Girls’ School, Jazelle Carter, 15, Rhani Hagan, 15, Lily Holt, 14 and Abigail Jones, 14. Picture: Zak Simmonds

Further research also found feelings of embarrassment, lack of confidence and concerns about body image were further reasons why girls were not more active in mixed teams.

“Especially in secondary settings, students may feel uncomfortable in front of the opposite sex when they are dressed in their PE uniforms,” Dr Vargos said.

Alliance* of Girls’ Schools Australasia executive officer Loren Bridge said a large body of research had demonstrated that adolescent* girls were highly conscious of body image and weight and reluctant to wear revealing or tight-fitting PE uniforms or take part in PE classes and sporting activities with boys.

Ms Bridge said given the findings, it was “hardly surprising” that the proportion of girls taking part in PE and competitive sport at girls’ schools was “significantly higher” than at coeducational schools.

Girls' Only Sports media_cameraRowers at Melbourne Girls’ Grammar School, pictured from left: Georgie Gough, Amelia Kogler, Alexandra Williams. Picture: Mark Stewart

“Girls’ schools often have more students wanting to play popular sports than places available on school teams,” she said. “Another important reason that we see such high levels of involvement in physical education and sports in girls’ schools is that, without the social pressure of boys, girls are less self-conscious and feel free to be themselves, free to participate in any activity, group or club, surrounded by other like-minded girls.”

Melbourne Girls’ Grammar principal Toni Meath said it was important to “create opportunities for girls to be physically active, to benefit from a supportive environment and have the confidence to push themselves to achieve their best.”

Additional reporting Stephanie Bennett


  • conscious: aware of something, alert
  • elicit: extract, bring about, draw out, obtain
  • alliance: an association or group based on shared interests, values and qualities
  • adolescent: phase of physical and psychological development between puberty and adulthood


Girls want school uniform rule change

‘Ridiculous’ bikini rule scrapped in women’s handball

Call to ditch school uniforms for sportswear


  1. How many students were monitored and how old were they?
  2. Which sport was being played by the participating students in the US study?
  3. Were boys more, less or as likely to pass the ball to a female teammate?
  4. Which three factors were further reasons why girls were not as active in mixed teams?
  5. What kind of PE uniforms does Ms Bridge suggest girls are reluctant to wear?


1. Design a uniform
Dr Vargos said that girls might not feel comfortable wearing their PE or sports uniform. Design a PE or sports uniform that you think everyone would feel confident and comfortable wearing.

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Design and Technologies; Health and Physical Education

2. Extension
Write a list of things that could be done to encourage both boys and girls to make sure that everyone is physically active and has the same opportunities to do their best in PE and sports at school.

Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Health and Physical Education

Stretch your sentence
Find a “who” in the news story. Write it down.

Add three adjectives to describe them better.

Now add a verb to your list. What are they doing?

Add an adverb about how they are doing the action.

Using all the words listed, create one descriptive sentence.

Extra Reading in sport