Work Hard

How Dame Allan’s Schools is encouraging more girls to get into sport and get outdoors

If you're looking for a place where fitness meets fun, Dame Allan's trailblazing teachers are changing the game.

Written by Rachael Nichol
Published 31.01.2024

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In a world where kids opt for screens over fresh air, Dame Allan’s is changing the game.

When you step into Dame Allan’s Junior School, you’ll find more than just classrooms. There’s a multi-use games area, a magical woodland area to explore, a bustling school gym, and even a cosy yurt in the grounds.

When it comes to sport, the school takes it to the next level with a line-up covering every major sport and year group, from football and rugby to swimming and dance. And they’re not just local champs; pupils travel across the UK, allowing pupils to find joy in sport and compete with their friends.

From classics like rugby, hockey, netball and cricket to contemporary workouts like squash and athletics, with a whopping 42 sports clubs Dame Allan’s has it all.

So, if you’re looking for a place where fitness meets fun, Dame Allan’s is your go-to spot.

To kick things off we caught up with trailblazing sports teachers at Dame Allan’s to find out how they’re getting more girls into sport.

 

MEET THE TRAILBLAZERS: FIONA, ERIN AND GILL

Fiona Dobbin Dame Allan's Schools

Now, meet the staff at Dame Allan’s Junior School. Fiona Dobbin, the Head of Sport, is like the team captain of the sports program.

She’s all about making sports fun and breaking down the initial barriers that might hold girls back.

‘It’s great to see girls developing an early interest in sport,’ says Fiona. ‘Unfortunately, I have my own life stories about girls in sports and the barriers I used to face. I generally share these with the girls, so they are aware of the opportunities available to them in today’s society.

‘The advice I give them is to attend four sessions and see what you think after that,’ Fiona adds. ‘The first session is there to be brave enough to turn up. The second is to feel more confident that you have managed this already once. The third you have made a friend or two and you have learnt one thing. I would also recommend that parents take up an activity. Children who see their parents take part in active pursuits are more likely to participate in sport.’

Erin Barlow Dame Allan's Schools

Supporting Fiona is Erin Barlow who is a teacher of PE and Games at the Junior School. She echoes the inclusivity vibe.

‘We have spent a lot of time over the past few years ensuring that we have a very inclusive approach to our sporting activities and offerings,’ says Erin. ‘Our PE, dance and swim lessons are all taught as mixed groups and all our co-curricular activities are open to all, both boys and girls.  With this approach, our girls very much adopt a ‘this girl can’ attitude from a very young age.

‘Seeing our pupils have fun and enjoying themselves on the sports field is my main priority,’ Erin adds. ‘Knowing that we can provide something for everyone and watching them grow as individuals is very rewarding.’

Gill Williams Dame Allan's Schools

Alongside Fiona and Erin, Gill Williams works with the Early Years, supporting the youngest pupils.

She is also in charge of the outdoor education programme, which aims to introduce children to the outdoors, building confidence and respect for the environment.

A lot of this education takes place in the ‘Woodland Ways’ a dedicated forest area of the Junior School, where children can learn around a campfire. The on-site yurt is another popular area for outdoor education.

‘Being outdoors and having hands-on woodland experiences, like exploring the pond area and witnessing the life cycle of a frog first-hand, provides a tangible and awe-inspiring way for the children to connect with nature,’ says Gill. ‘Close encounters with nature most definitely instil a profound respect in children, helping them to understand and cherish the environment.’

SKOGSMULLE, FROGS AND THE GREAT OUTDOORS

But Gill doesn’t stop there. She brings in the Swedish magic with Skogsmulle, a nature-based learning method that sparks imagination. It’s all about fostering a respect for nature and the outdoor adventures lay the groundwork for an ecological understanding.

It’s not just about climbing trees and making assault courses; it’s about connecting with nature.

‘Being outdoors allows children and parents to play together and gives the children the perfect outlet for their need to move. Your child needs to take ownership of their time outdoors,’ says Gill. ‘Give them a rucksack and allow them to pack it and unpack it. Let your child collect their findings and then share their treasures with you. It may be a leaf, a stick, a pine cone or even a minibeast. The value of it to the child will be huge.

‘The more you take the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors your child will soon learn to respect nature, learn new facts, develop language and develop fine and gross motor skills.’

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