Innovative college projects help engage women in sport

Since Sport England launched its Active Colleges investment in 2012, colleges have created a variety of innovative projects to engage women in sport. 


AoC Sport has supported colleges to develop opportunities to increase female participation by providing networking opportunities, training and development, and by working with partners to develop female specific programmes.

Participation among female students has risen by six percent in this period and while there is still lots of work to be done to get more women engaged in sport, Women’s Sport Week provides an opportunity to celebrate some of the outstanding work in colleges.

Bexhill College embraced Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign. Female-only sessions were timetabled in boxing, circuit training, spinning, gym, basketball, football, yoga, zumba, table tennis and more. All the activities listed were targeted at inactive students to engage and inspire them to take part. The project helped engage more than 270 female students in physical activity. Even more impressively, more than 200 of those participants remain involved in sport and physical activity either within the college or in community sessions.

Exeter College worked with Netball England to recruit two volunteers through their FE Netball Rep programme. The volunteers supported a member of college staff to deliver a netball club designed to re-engage lapsed participants and attract new players to the sport. The club attracted 57 participants over the academic year, with more than 20 regularly attending the weekly sessions. 64% of the group had previous netball experience but were no longer active and 18% were totally new to the sport.

Stoke on Trent College successfully applied for Sportivate funding to develop a Fit 4 Work programme of activities for their first year Health and Social Care students. This is a curriculum area that traditionally attracts a high percentage of female students and has low participation levels. The students were able to design and plan their own sessions that were appropriate for them. 74 students who previously took part in very little activity were able to participate in six weeks of sport.


West Lancashire College used a local Race for Life event as an incentive to engage inactive female students. The girls followed Public Health England’s Couch to 5k programme. The weekly sessions were delivered at a local athletics track by the College Sport Maker. Five separate sessions were delivered each week to ensure that students could fit in the activity around their college and work commitments. Over eight weeks the sessions attracted 33 students and six members of staff from a range of curriculum areas. The participants who were previously inactive completed the Race for Life and have all continued to be physically active by attending other sessions across the college.

AoC Sport, in partnership with StreetGames, has provided 35 colleges with funding to enable them to establish Us Girls Doorstep Sport Clubs. Each club will offer three blocks of ten weeks of sport and physical activity. Each college received £2,000 and are all tasked with engaging at least 45 previously inactive female participants.

The Us Girls approach introduces physical activity in a fun and informal way and sparks the interest of female students who aren’t attracted to more traditional sporting offers. Participating colleges are able to access a range of support materials such as access to Us Girls branding, insight and marketing resources.