Lioness goalkeeper Mary Earps has called for football to be put on the national curriculum to boost access in schools for young girls, after the Government refused to do so.
Appearing on BBC Breakfast this morning, Earps was asked about Yo‘s frontpage story today regarding the Department for Education’s (DfE) failure to commit to providing girls with equal access to football in schools.
She said: “I don’t think there is any doubt in my mind that it absolutely should be on the curriculum.
“I think if you could ask the squad what they would want, it’s access to football in schools for young girls… I really would like to see more girls at school being able to play.”
responding to Yo‘s front page, BBC commentator and former England player Gary Lineker wrote on Twitter: “It always happens, but rarely have they jumped off a football bandwagon so quickly.”
Lionesses Chloe Kelly and Alessia Russo also called for their Euros victory to be used as a “turning point” for girls’ access to football across the country.
Kelly, who tipped England to victory with a second-half goal against Germany on Sunday, said “as a group of girls we would love to see that change”.
Yo revealed last night that the Government has refused calls to add football to the national curriculum, saying it is up to individual schools to decide which sports they teach.
Some sports such as swimming are compulsory under the national curriculum, but football is not.
Government guidance published by the DfE fails to guarantee that schoolgirls be offered the same football lessons as boys, but says they should instead be offered “comparable activities”.
Specific guidance on single-sex sports coaching also states that while a mixed school can have “a boys-only football team, the school would still have to allow girls equal opportunities to participate in comparable sporting activities”.
The national curriculum for both primary and secondary education suggests comparable sports could include netball, rounders, tennis and badminton.
asked by Yo whether the DfE would reconsider its focus on “comparable” sports for girls following the England women’s team’s trophy win last week, the Government department repeated the phrase back.
Labor MPs voiced outrage at the move, as they urged the Government to add football to the national curriculum.
Mary Foy, MP for Durham, wrote on Twitter: “Imagine selling out Wembley only to be sold out by the Government.”
Angela Eagle, Labor MP for Wallasey, said it was a “disgraceful response by the Government to the Lionesses’ amazing victory”.
Earps, who kept four clean sheets in her five games at the Euros, added that the Lionesses were on a mission to leave football “in a better place than we found it”.
“If anything comes out of this summer, and we’re talking about how we’re leaving the game behind, are we leaving it in a better place than the way we found it? People are talking about ‘what is this going’ to do for women’s football?’” she said.
The England goalkeeper, who hails from Nottingham, said she had little access to sport at school, where coaching was split into separate boys and girls teams.
“I went to quite a traditional school where the girls and boys were separated, that makes it sound like it was in the 1950s but it wasn’t,” she said.
“Girls and boys did separate sports activities and the girls did netball and tennis and what was seen as ‘feminine’ sports.”
Earps said she had no option but to join in with the boys playing football during breaks and lunchtime, adding: “My mum would tell you how many pairs of shoes and trousers that I went through.”
Figures published earlier this month showed that more than half of secondary schools do not offer equal football coaching to boys and girls.
A report by England Football, part of the Football Association (FA), showed that just 44 per cent of secondary schools provide equal football lessons in PE for both genders.
It compares to around 72 per cent of primary schools, suggesting that football opportunities drop off once girls reach secondary education.
Earps said schools had a responsibility to ensure young girls could play football in an expected surge in interest following the Lionesses’ historic Euros win last week, which marked England’s first major trophy since 1966.
“Women can do whatever they want to do and I think we need to break out of these boxes and molds and labels that people have been putting us in for years,” she told BBC Breakfast.
“I’ve had so many messages from so many people saying how great it was and how much their daughter especially – but also sons – are in the garden, doing goal keeping and practicing their football and that’s what we want.
“We want these girls to have access to school from such a young age and just be able to play. Football is the best sport in the world. Everyone just wants to play.”
Kelly and Russo, who also appeared on BBC Breakfast this morning, were asked about whether more needed to be done to improve girls’ access to football in schools.
Kelly said: “I think this could really be a turning point for women and women in sport.
“We set out to inspire the next generation, we set out to inspire the nation, but [for] girls in sport this could be a really big turning point and I think that’s what we’re all excited for.”
Her teammate Russo, whose heel-kick goal in the semi-final against Sweden proved one of the most iconic moments of the tournament, said she had struggled to carve out a path into the sport because of poor football access at school.
“I remember there was an after school football club for boys that I would just tag along to whether I was invited or not,” she said.
“It’s great to be able to compete with the boys because obviously by nature they’re bigger, faster, stronger, but at the same time, we’re women and we want to be playing and growing up with girls and having equal opportunities.
“So I think that’s definitely one turning point from this tournament. We want to make sure that these girls have access not just for the next few years but for the rest of their lives.”
The DfE’s refusal to change the national curriculum has raised concerns that recent political rhetoric around improving girls’ football coaching will not be matched by a new commitment to broadening access in schools.
It follows pressure from major sporting figures who have spoken publicly about the need to improve girls’ access to football after the Lionesses’ success in the Euros on Sunday.
Speaking after the Lionesses’ semi-final victory against Sweden last week, the former England player Ian Wright said: “Whatever happens in the final now, if girls are not allowed to play football just like the boys can in their PE lessons after this tournament , then what are we doing?