The Gregg School

Leighton Park's annual 'LP Girls Can Week'

Published by Leighton Park School on Monday 24th of June 2024

LP Girls Can Week kicked off on Monday, June 10th, inspired by the national campaign ‘This Girl Can’. Nationally, 64% of girls quit sports by the age of finishing puberty (aged 16-17), double the number of boys, according to England Netball’s ‘NetballHer’ survey. The aim of the week is to allow girls to participate in new sports, hear from inspiring sports leaders, create a fun atmosphere for collaboration in sports activities, and promote sport engagement in happy and healthy ways.


The creator of LP Girls Can Week and Head of Netball, Zoe Macpherson, commented on the importance of the sporting week: “It’s the seventh year we are running this event. It’s important we implement new activities for the girls to get involved with. We want to inspire the students to participate, help their physical and mental well-being, and help them feel comfortable in their own bodies.”


We kicked off the week with Old Leightonians, Anna and Tiger, returning to the park for netball sessions during lunch and co-curricular activities. The pair, who now study Fashion Design Technology and Sports and Exercise Science at Oxford Brookes and Loughborough University, led the sessions to show the impact that LP Girls Can Week had on them when they were students. Anna explained her reasons for returning: “I found LP Girls Can Week so beneficial for getting myself into different sports. Having OLs come in, I was so inspired to see what they had gone on to do after Leighton Park.”


The week also coincided with Cricket Week, run by Head of Cricket Sam Bowers. Multiple cricket fixtures and festivals included matches against different schools from the Berkshire area with both boys’ and girls’ teams, adding competitive play opportunities to their sporting education. There were also some fabulous match outcomes from the boys’ U23, U15, and Lower Sixth teams, who played against surrounding schools and even some Old Leightonians.


While revisiting already known sports, volleyball and rounders were also on the list. Friendly games were held in integrated age groups, making the most of the sunny weather. The staff also got involved in an intense staff versus students rounders match, as well as a netball match!


Not only did the students get involved in the week, but the school’s well-being platform, YouHQ, hosted a podcast with Zoe Macpherson and Head of Football, Callum Beasley. The podcast discussed the importance of girls’ sports and well-being. Co-founder of Her Game Too, Emily Drakely, also joined the podcast to share her thoughts on sport being for all.


A big part of the week was introducing the girls to new sports to encourage them to step outside their comfort zones and enable them to feel confident in having a go. This was manifested in the archery and American football sessions. Groups took turns participating and learning the basics of these two new sports. Resident PE Graduate, Danny Clark, led the archery session on how to master the bow. Many of the girls remarked how enjoyable the session was, made even better by the positive support from all involved.


Geography teacher, James Hegarty, led the American Football session and has previously taught Team GB American Football. The Year 9 and 10 students threw themselves (sometimes literally) into the game. Once the session finished, the pupils even asked if an American Football co-curricular session could be initiated! James shared his love for the sport, commenting: “It’s nice to be able to bring the sport to the girls at LP as well. It’s a really inclusive sport; it’s open to anyone, any ability, any body shape. Anyone can just pick it up and give it a go.”


Judo was another highlight of the week. Leighton Park’s Judo instructor and Olympic Judo athlete led a session within the week to teach safe judo practices and some moves. Introducing less popular sports allows our students to find new hobbies, passions, and interests to expand their activities. Year 7 student, Connie, expressed: “It’s been really good to meet so many new people from different year groups and great inspirational women from sports.”


Multiple role models visited the park during LP Girls Can Week, aiming to inspire the girls in various ways. One of the highlights was Commonwealth Athlete, Pippa Woolven. Pippa spoke to the entire school about her journey as an athlete, how she learned to have a balanced sporting life, and how to sufficiently fuel her body to avoid burnout. The talk also opened up to a Q&A session, allowing students to ask the athlete their burning questions.


Another guest visiting the park was Sarah Holmes, from Leighton Park’s sport partner, Go Perform. Sarah spoke on the importance of wearing the right sports bra during exercise and sport to support the female anatomy, avoid injury, and ensure comfort. Sarah commented: “There’s a lot of evidence that breasts can be a barrier to sport and activity. It’s about educating them to understand their bodies to help overcome the barriers they might have, such as pain or embarrassment from breast movement.”


The students were also lucky enough to meet Watford Women’s player, Jade Bradley, who attended the very first Berkshire girls’ football tournament, sponsored by YouHQ and created by Head of Football at Leighton Park, Callum Beasley. Jade expressed how glad she was to be able to attend the event: “When I was at school, we didn’t have this exposure. You might have been the only girl playing, but now there are hundreds of girls!”


The tournament consisted of eight schools from Berkshire playing matches against each other in two age categories, U13 and U15. It was a great success for Leighton Park’s U13s, who won the tournament! This, however, was not the only football success announced. After a successful season in the girls’ summer leagues, both the U13 and U15 Leighton Park girls’ football teams won their leagues with no games conceded. Ending LP Girls Can Week on an ultimate high.

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