England’s Lionesses have written to Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss asking them to commit to allowing all girls to play football in schools after the Department for Education (DfE) refused to say it would change the guidance.
The open letter to the two Tory leadership candidates has been signed by the squad who won the historic victory in the Women’s Euro 2022 on Sunday.
In the letter, the players say many of them had experienced being stopped from playing football in their teenage years.
“Throughout the Euros, we as a team spoke about our legacy and goal to inspire a nation. Many will think this has already been achieved but we see this as only the beginning,” they wrote.
“We are looking to the future. We want to create real change in this country and we are asking you, if you were to become prime minister on 5 September, to help us achieve that change.”
A report by England Football, part of the Football Association (FA), showed that just 44% of secondary schools provide equal football lessons in PE for both boys and girls.
“The reality is we are inspiring young girls to play football only for many to end up going to school and not being able to play,” the letter signed by the 23 players said.
“This is something we all experienced growing up. We were often stopped from playing. So we made our own teams, we travelled across the country and, despite the odds, we just kept playing football.”
The letter asks Sunak and Truss to commit to ensuring all girls have two hours a week of PE lessons and invest in and support female PE teachers as well as resources for girls’ football sessions.
“This generation of school girls deserves more. They deserve to play football at lunchtime, they deserve to play football in PE lessons and they deserve to believe they can one day play for England.”
Labour MP Bridget Phillipson has written to the education secretary demanding an “equal access guarantee” in school PE lessons. The current DfE guidance is that schools should provide “comparable sporting activities”, which she said is outdated and limits girls’ access to sport.
The DfE has refused to commit to ensuring that girls have access to football in schools.
A spokesperson for Sunak said: “Rishi passionately believes in the importance of sport for children’s development and would love to see all schools provide two hours of PE a week … he has committed to launch a review of women’s football immediately if he is made prime minister to make sure that all women and girls have the opportunity to take part in the beautiful game.”
A spokesperson for Truss said: “Liz wants equal access to all sports for boys and girls, and supports campaigns such as the FA’s Let Girls Play campaign. She is committed to investigating what prevents schools from delivering the recommended minimum of two hours PE per week.”