Devon Schools To Take Part in New Pilot Delivering Female Health Through PE

Posted October 18, 2023 by Poppy O'Reilly

Each week we bring you a good news story from across the South West as part of our WedNEWSday articles.

Secondary schools across Devon are being offered the chance to take part in a brand new pilot initiative to deliver female health awareness through physical education, to help reduce the number of girls who drop out of sport during puberty. 

Stats show that 67 per cent of girls across the UK stop taking part in physical activity during or after puberty.  The menstrual cycle has a huge impact on female activity levels and to those dropping out of sport or not taking part. The pilot, co-designed by England Netball and Swansea University, was brought to Devon through a collaboration with Active Devon. It aims to support teachers to provide education on this area and the reasons why, and how the menstrual cycle does not need to hold girls back from taking part in sport.

The pilot will feature a three-week lesson plan for teachers which educates secondary aged pupils on the menstrual cycle, how to manage it, what products are out there that can help them, some education of breast health and support and then how they can continue to be active through embedding netball across the lesson plans. The pilot includes three lessons to be delivered across a 6-week period and nine schools across Devon have already expressed an interest to take part. The first lesson is intended to create an understanding of female health among all students, helping to break the taboo around discussing menstruation and the impact on activity levels.

Kelly Gordon, Director of Development and Executive Lead for NETBALLHer at England Netball, said: “We are super excited to be doing a pilot in Devon which brings the two worlds together, education and sport, to work with secondary schools to help address the drop out during puberty. There are a number of life stages that impact female lives both on and beyond the court and during these vulnerable times, women and girls are more likely to worry about showing up authentically, and stop playing, just when they need support the most. As a result of the findings, we have launched NETBALLHer, which aims to support women and girls at every life stage with their female health and female body.  We need to help them to help understand their bodies to help prevent that drop out.”

Working alongside England Netball to bring the pilot initiative to schools in Devon is Dr. Natalie Brown – a Research Officer based at Swansea University. Natalie said: “My area of research is all around the menstrual cycle, participation in physical activity and sport performance. We’ve created a team to help provide some solutions and support in terms of menstrual education and being able to stay active during puberty and during PE, with a special focus on netball. The schools’ pilot is starting in November, and we are offering menstrual education lessons, with a focus on staying active, movement and specifically within netball and how we can use that platform to try and help support girls to stay active during puberty and change that figure relating to the drop out that we do see.”

Karen Jones, Partnerships Manager at Active Devon, who have been instrumental in bringing this pilot scheme to Devon said: “We are delighted we have been able to bring this fabulous initiative to Devon schools. It’s very important for women and girls of all ages in Devon to be active and take part in sport and not to have any health worries which prevent them from taking part and being active. We know that being active is great not only for their physical health but for their mental health.

We’ve heard from England Netball about issues that stop teenage girls from taking part in PE but netball and other activities can enrich the lives of women from five to 95 years and across their life stages they will face a number of hurdles that will hold them back. At Active Devon, we want women and girls to show up and take part in whatever activity they enjoy, on and off the court, and we encourage all women and girls to be active for their physical and mental health.”

Jennifer Kelly, England Netball’s Development Officer for Devon adds: “I am so excited that Devon has been chosen to pilot the learning offer. Devon has a thriving school netball community but even so we notice a drop out of girls through puberty, I hope that being part of this initiative we will keep more teenage girls in netball and part of the wider Devon netball family.”

The pilot will be followed by a focus group delivered by Swansea University and is hoped to be delivered more widely across the UK next year. If any secondary schools in Devon wish to get involved, there is an online webinar available on 9th November 2023 4pm-5pm. Click this link to find out more information – NETBALLHer Menstrual Cycle Learning Offer for Secondary School Teachers (

England Netball has developed a new website which covers all life stages and all female health topics.  It supports teachers and coaches and anyone working with women and girls. For more information on NETBALLHer, visit:

If you have a good news story that you would like to share please send your story and a picture to the South West Regional Officer (

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