Being active and healthy is the foundation of a happy life. Sport can inspire and challenge us to achieve the highest levels of success possible, but it can also enable us to make friends, learn about how to deal positively with loss and failure, and to provide us with an important way to achieve balance in life's sometimes stressful journey.
Queen's has always had a powerful reputation in elite sport but several years ago we embarked on an ambitious plan to change the nature of sports provision at Queen's. We wanted to do two challenging things: to increase the participation rates for girls in sport in school, and also to maintain, and even to improve further the quality of elite sport at Queen's.
Our research showed that the girls wanted to look and feel good when playing sports. They wanted choice and new activities. While some loved the traditional sports of hockey, netball, rounders, athletics, tennis and lacrosse, others wanted something different. Some girls told us that they didn't enjoy competitive sports, others that they didn't feel coordinated enough to play ball games, others wanted to try new activities such as cycling or rowing.
First of all we changed the playing kit in the Senior School. Out went the old polo shirts, wrap around skirts and the polyester gym knickers, and in came a new kit which was universally welcomed by the girls, which made them look smart and capable and flattered the female body.
The impact of the new kit was immediate and positive, with the girls saying that it made them feel prouder to represent the school, and also that it was more comfortable and more likely to make them want to do exercise. The numbers in our lunchtime running club increased.
The PE department was rechristened the department of "Sport and Fitness", to emphasise the twin nature of what we were trying to achieve. We began to change our curriculum, particularly in Years 10 and 11 and the sixth form, to increase the number of sport and fitness experiences on offer to the girls. After a survey revealed that 91% of the girls in Year 10 did not like swimming, we introduced rowing into the curriculum.
We increased our staffing and more staff were encouraged to run clubs for cricket, running, football, karate and yoga and introduced American lacrosse coaches to school. They have shown the girls an international perspective, taught them a whole series of American aphorisms and changed the way that we pronounce words like "DEfence" and "CRASH".
Fitness for All has enabled us to offer tag rugby, netball, pilates, tai chi, yoga, badminton and street dance through different coaches coming into the school. We have also introduced the Sports Leaders Qualification into Year 11, with participants on the course learning to lead the younger pupils in sporting activities in order to achieve their Level 1 and Level 2. Last year, thanks to the generosity of one of our parents, we introduced our sixth form sports scholarship to further recognise individuals who are competing at top elite level in their sport.
However, developing the partnerships we have with local clubs, businesses and societies has been one of the most powerful and unexpected joys that the Fitness For All campaign has brought. Our research shows that there are more girls than ever taking part in sporting or fitness-related activities in school and outside it. Hundreds of Queen's girls have learned or are learning to row through our partnership with The Royal Chester Rowing Club, many have learned to sail at Chester Sailing Club, taken up fencing and learnt activities such as gymnastics, dance and Pilates through our partnerships with community organisations, businesses and clubs.
And what of elite sport? We are very pleased to report that Queen's teams continue to go from strength to strength in traditional school sports such as hockey, lacrosse, rounders, athletics, tennis and netball and we are growing in ability in sports which are newer to Queen's like football and rowing.
Fitness For All is working for all of our pupils.
This Queen's Girl Can!