Rugby-playing school girls leave ‘dark ages’ of tradition behind

A new survey conducted by the Girls’ Schools Association (‘GSA’) has shown that rugby is alive and well and gaining momentum among girls in independent girls’ schools.

“The range of sporting activity in GSA schools is astonishing and the growing popularity of girls’ rugby is another indication that not all independent schools are stuck in the dark ages of tradition,” said GSA president Alun Jones. Mr Jones is also principal of St Gabriel’s School, Newbury, where Year 9-12 girls play extra-curricular tag rugby.

The survey by the GSA, which represents UK independent girls’ schools, asked a representative sample of 35 GSA schools what kind of rugby they offered and how many girls took part.

  • 60% of those surveyed said their girls play either tag rugby, rugby league or rugby union on a regular basis, involving an average 76 girls per school.
  • A further 14% said they have plans to introduce rugby.
  • Half of the schools surveyed provide rugby or tag rugby as part of the curriculum.
  • Girls at 11% of surveyed schools play rugby fixtures, such as rugby sevens tournaments and city tag rugby league.
  • Some schools have partnerships with local rugby teams giving access to specialist facilities and training, while others have their own pitch and in-house specialists.
  • 11% of surveyed schools have links with the Rugby Football Union and a further 34% are considering pursuing them.
  • The ages of girls participating in rugby at GSA schools ranges from Years 3-6 (primary school) to Sixth Form.

Case Studies

Sherborne Girls in Dorset has joint training sessions between girls at the school and girls at the local rugby club. They play rugby union and tag rugby as extra-curricular activities for girls in Years 9 to 12 and have recently ventured into friendly fixtures. The school also hosts the Dorset and Wilts U16 and U18 County trials and evening training and is planning to stage a girls’ rugby summer camp in 2016. Bex Brown is housemistress and rugby coach. She says:
“Girls are keen to do rugby. They enjoy playing a ‘different’ sport. More schools should be playing it as it tends to promote a healthy approach to appearance and size, as well as being good exercise. It also helps girls to realise they are just as capable as boys.”

Newcastle High School for Girls has a relationship with Newcastle Falcons who offer free coaching and access to training for staff. Girls play rugby union and offer tag rugby to Years 9-12 as part of the curriculum. The school’s director of sport, Jackie Atkinson, says:
“We offer rugby as a choice and believe that a broad depth of experiences is vital if girls are going to find activities they enjoy and can be good at.”

Manchester High School for Girls has a partnership with Salford Reds that involves curriculum rugby and tag rugby for over 100 girls in Years 11-12. The school’s director of sport, Sarah Newman, says:
“Rugby for girls challenges stereotypes. It’s fun and offers them new opportunities.”

Girls at The Maynard School in Exeter will be cheering for the Wallabies in the World Cup final this Saturday. They have a special reason for doing so – the school’s choir was chosen to sing for the Australian team at their official Rugby World Cup 2015 Welcome Ceremony last month.

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