On Wednesday 9 March, The FA and Barclays host the inaugural Biggest Ever Football Session across England as part of The FA’s Let Girls Play campaign.
Taking place the day after International Women’s Day, the nationwide sessions will highlight the importance of unlocking equal opportunities for girls to participate in football in schools and raise awareness for the Barclays Girls Football School Partnerships programme.
From Cornwall to Newcastle, the event has seen a record 758 primary and secondary schools sign up to deliver bespoke football sessions, with over 61,000 children set to take part in the day. With the support of The FA’s delivery partner, Youth Sports Trust, the schools have been provided with football session ideas and resource cards from the England Football Physical Education team. These are to support teachers in the delivery of their sessions which will take place in PE lessons, before school, during lunchtime and after school.
Currently, only 63% of schools offer girls’ football in PE lessons and only 40% of schools offer girls regular extracurricular football. The FA’s ambition, as seen in the Inspiring Positive Change strategy, is to have 75% of schools providing equal access to football for girls in PE lessons and 90% of schools offering regular extracurricular football by 2024.
The Biggest Ever Football Session is part of the Let Girls Play campaign, which launched last year, supporting The FA’s strategic ambition for equal access and is backed by Barclays as part of their record-breaking investment in women and girls’ football and their commitment to the game. The campaign’s website provides inspiring resources to help influence the start of change and allow more girls to feel the mental and physical benefits of exercise through playing football.
The FA’s Head of Development Louise Gear said: “Currently girls don’t have the same opportunity as boys to play football in schools and our central strategic goal is to see that change by 2024, so that any girl who is inspired to play football will have the opportunity to do so. It is our hope that the Let Girls Play Biggest Ever Football Session will play a part in driving change, empowering and inspiring schools, teachers and parents across the country to join us in a show of support to unlock these unequal pathways. This wouldn’t be possible without the support of Barclays and our joint passion for equality.”
Former England International and Barclays football ambassador Kelly Smith, MBE added: “Although I played at the very top of the women’s game, for my generation the pathway to getting there was difficult. I had no choice but to play for boys’ teams and we weren’t offered the chance to play football at school. Barclays and The FA have made tremendous progress over recent years in making access to football more equal, and I’m incredibly proud to be part of the Let Girls Play campaign and to see thousands of girls unite on the 9th March at the Biggest Ever Football Sessions across the country.”
Lisa Bates head teacher at Gorse Hill Primary School, one of the schools taking part in the event, added: “We’re so excited to be taking part in the Let Girls Play Biggest Ever Football Session. The response from the pupils and their parents has been fantastic. It really shows that the desire from girls to play football is there. Football can play a crucial role in supporting children’s physical and mental wellbeing, as well as helping them to make friends and develop confidence. We strongly believe its benefits should be open to every child regardless of gender, and we are proud to be doing our part to help.”
To find out more about the campaign, how to sign up to the Biggest Ever Football Session and to see how you can help and make a difference to giving girls equal access to football in schools, go to www.englandfootball.com/LetGirlsPlay. To join the movement via social media, follow Facebook, Instagram and Twitter using #LetGirlsPlay.