Dance classes a big hit as girls take steps to keep fit

AN INNOVATIVE programme which aims to get more girls actively involved in sport is making positive strides throughout the country.

Two years ago sportscotland, in partnership with the Youth Sport Trust, set up Fit For Girls to engage girls in activities and help stop the problems that arise from lack of exercise.

The three-year programme has been taken on board by the majority of secondary schools in Scotland within PE classes and after-school activities and in many areas it has given young girls - who perhaps were embarrassed or self-conscious previously - the opportunity to try new activities and it has empowered them.

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One positive example of the work that has been done is at Grangemouth High School in Falkirk, where over 80 young girls now participate in dance classes each week.

When the programme first launched, PE teacher Pauline Dundas believed it was a good thing for her school to get involved in.

She said: "Around the time that Fit For Girls was launched a group of girls had approached me at school asking if I could start taking dance classes. With the school taking Fit For Girls on board this was facilitated and we now run dance classes numerous times a week and girls from S1 to S6 have become involved and really taken to it.

"Indeed we now have dance classes running for girls from our cluster primary schools, which some of our senior pupils oversee, and it really has given girls at Grangemouth High a desire to keep active and enjoy it."

One of the girls who approached Dundas about setting up dance classes was Sophie O'Neill and when you speak to her you get a real feeling for the way in which Fit For Girls has changed her.

Now in S6, she said: "I used to be really shy and self-conscious, but the dance classes have helped me come out of my shell and become more assertive. Sometimes at school previously, myself and other girls weren't interested in the sports offered, but we all really enjoy dancing and it has made me think more about keeping fit in general. While the dancing is all about enjoyment and keeping active, it has also taught us a lot of other things such as working in a team and pulling together to put on the end-of-year shows and such like.I have also been able to pass my dance leadership exam and without Fit For Girls or Miss Dundas this just wouldn't have been possible."

Last year when Fit For Girl participants were questioned, 84 per cent said they would like to be more active and as we head into 2011 it looks like they are getting their wish, with examples like the one at Grangemouth High popping up all over Scotland.

Dundas added: "It is so pleasing for me as a teacher to see the girls really taking ownership of this project and moving it forward and I am certainly hopeful of expanding what we offer via sportscotland Fit For Girls over the coming months."