Bridgend County Borough plays host to various groups, organisations, businesses, schools and clubs who work together with the local council to provide sports facilities and activities for girls to encourage them to take part in exercise.
Previously, there was a lack of co-ordination between these different groups and they were seeing varying levels of success in terms of girl’s participation in physical activity and achieving targets.
Current statistics show that 30% of children are obese and that in the UK 1 in 3 girls aged over 11 are overweight. Girl’s participation in physical activity was identified as an area of focus for Bridgend County Borough Council, after research revealed a decrease in numbers between school years 6 – 9.
The council decided to review the facilities and services available for girls, and looked at the collaboration between the different partners. In 2012, a consultation with local girls was carried out which aimed to establish the key areas of importance within the programmes, and to highlight the main barriers preventing girls from being more active.
The barriers identified were low self-esteem and low confidence, not liking the school PE kit, and not being allowed to participate within friendship groups. These issues were preventing them from regularly taking part in physical activities, which also increased the likelihood of them going on to be inactive adults.
After the research and consultation period, the council’s Active Young people Department (AYPD) worked with organisations and partners to form the Girls Network Group. Individual groups were set up in local schools to be run by the girls themselves, giving them ownership of the programmes and encouraging them to take the lead. The aim was to empower them to drive forward the required changes, and to become ambassadors within their schools to encourage other girls to take part in the various programmes.
The Girls Network Group liaises between the different partners, and they attend regular meetings to evaluate progress, support planning and set targets for the different sub groups within the network.
They aim to address the issues around participation and girls being inactive, not exercising and developing sedentary lifestyles as they go through secondary school.
Since being created, the programme has developed further and in addition to giving girls the opportunity to take part in modern activities such as Zumba, ‘glow in the dark’ sports, tag rugby and aqua sports, it also provides training and support to increase their transferable skills and experience.
So far, Girls Network groups have attended a training programme to learn about self-esteem, wellbeing and emotional health. This programme trained group members, ambassadors and teachers to be able to deliver emotional health and self-esteem workshops in schools to address such issues.
The group’s members liaised with the 6 secondary schools involved in the programme to adapt the school PE kit policy to include a wider variety of clothing and styles,with an agreed colour scheme which has immediately removed this as a barrier.
The Girls Network Group has achieved some fantastic results, including setting up a series of affordable girl-only “Funky Fitness” classes for 13-18 year olds at Maesteg Sports Centre. They have initiated the “Pass It On” campaign, which encourages girls to pass on good deeds such as; taking someone to a fitness class if they are too shy to attend alone or befriending people who lack confidence. Those girls in turn pass on the good deed to three other people. They also helped to establish the US Girls programme, which involves offering different sports activities as well as the chance to get your hair and nails done, with the option to dip in and out of activities. This has seen the biggest ever participation rate for girls attending after school activities.
Karen Winch, Senior Officer in the Active Young People Department of Bridgend County Borough Council said: “After realising that we needed to change our approach to engage with these girls, we have introduced a very innovative style, embracing collaboration and actively communicating with the end users to find out what they want and need. We are thrilled that the Girls Network Group has already achieved so much.
By empowering the girls, and giving them the tools and support to take the lead on these issues, the group members are learning fantastic skills, improving their self-confidence, and are fantastic role models to other girls in the county borough. They are making the difference and driving forward the changes that we needed to see.
I am very proud of what we have achieved so far, and I hope that this collaborative approach will continue to expand and encourage even more girls in Bridgend County Borough to lead active and healthy lifestyles.”
Hashtags: #GirlPowerPassItOn (for the Pass It On campaign)
This story supports the following 2026 objectives:
Get 75% of young people and young adults hooked on sport