ZUMBA dancing at a school is giving teenage girls who dread PE lessons a new-found love of exercise.
Dozens of 14 and 15-year-olds at Springfield in Drayton, Portsmouth, are choosing to spend half an hour a week to work up a sweat with a mix of samba, flamenco and other styles of high-intensity music.
The free lessons were launched 10 weeks ago after head Lynn Evans sat down with her female students to find out what could make PE more appealing to them.
Issues like Facebook bullying about appearances, feeling self-conscious and not enjoying any of the competitive sports on offer led them to brainstorm a wish list of ‘girls only’ sports.
Zumba was first on the list, followed by kick boxing which will be introduced later this year, and aqua aerobics.
Casey Shore admits she regularly comes up with excuses to avoid sport – but hasn’t missed a single zumba class which, unlike two hours of PE a week, is voluntary.
The 14-year-old said: ‘It’s hard to be yourself around boys. PE can be very competitive and you don’t want people making fun of you.
‘When it’s just the girls you don’t feel so awkward.
‘Zumba is so much fun – when you do it you forget you’re in school and you can just let yourself go.’
Daisy Callaway, 14, added: ‘It’s so energetic and there’s a lot less pressure as it’s only girls.’
Springfield’s new initiative couldn’t have been better timed. Yesterday, the Women’s Sports and Fitness Foundation issued a warning to schools to make sports lessons more appealing after a study found half of girls are put off by PE classes.
Competitive classmates, dirty changing rooms and the embarrassment of getting sweaty around boys were cited as reasons for avoiding exercise.
But Springfield has gone one better and awarded girls £20,000 to spruce up their changing rooms with brighter colours and a projector to play sports videos.
Mrs Evans, a zumba convert, said: ‘I’m sympathetic to the girls – when I was at school I had no intention of wearing a short hockey skirt out on a cold wintry morning.’