Trent Schools

May 17, 2024

The highly regarded Boarding Schools’ Association (BSA) annual awards are designed to celebrate and recognise the achievements, hard work and dedication of schools and individuals in boarding from schools across the world.

Trent College’s award submission celebrated the work of Miss Charsley (Assistant Director of Sport, and Assistant Housemistress) who has championed a programme to encourage girls participation in sport throughout the challenges of puberty.

The pioneering programme focused on education and support, organising girls-only presentations tailored to each year group. These sessions facilitated open conversations about puberty and its impact on sports participation. A multifaceted approach was then developed to address the concerns within our pupil body.

There was a strong emphasis on the role of exercise in alleviating menstrual pain and encouraging our pupils not to let their periods be an excuse to abstain from physical activity. Our sports staff underwent training to adapt practical sessions to accommodate the needs of female students during their periods, ensuring that every girl feels empowered to participate fully in sports, regardless of their cycle.

New “caught short boxes” were strategically located to increase pupils access to free sanitary products, which was extended to sporting fixtures through the implementation of “blue bags” which can discreetly be asked for. This initiative aimed to eliminate any embarrassment associated with menstruation and ensure that no girl would miss out on sports due to lack of supplies. The feedback from our pupils was extremely positive with high percentages of our pupils reporting increased confidence.

Furthermore, we addressed the issue of inadequate sports bras, which can significantly impact comfort, support and sporting performance. Partnering with No Bounce Sport, a high-performance sports bra brand, we provided educational presentations and personalised fittings for our female students. The enthusiastic response and uptake of this service highlighted its importance in enhancing the sporting experience for our girls.

We also updated our school sports kit, granting female pupils the option to choose between shorts and skorts. By prioritising pupil choice, we are ensuring pupils feel comfortable and confident. In addition, confidence boosting and inspiring messages have also been decorated on changing rooms mirrors to further enhance our pupils self-esteem.

Miss Charsley shares what the initiative means to her, “One of the main objectives as a PE teacher is to remove pupils’ barriers to sport.  Since implementing the programme, we have seen a shift in the girls’ approach to sport during and around their menstrual cycle and as their body changes through puberty. Historically many would use it as a barrier not to participate, but with staff able to make discreet adaptions, we have seen a huge increase in confidence. For me it has been simple changes with huge benefits for our girls.”

For a girl puberty can be scary and daunting as they navigate the road to becoming a woman. Females should be supporting each other, and I wanted the girls to realise they are not alone and can speak to each other and should be proud of their bodies and the changes it goes through. In regard to the menstrual cycle work we have done, our ‘caught short’ boxes have been extremely popular and have increased confidence in the girls knowing if they are caught short, they have a safe space to go with products available to them, either in school or on a fixture.”  

We are committed to continuing our efforts with numerous additional considerations taking place, thus ensuring that our support for mental and physical wellbeing remains first-class in an inclusive environment where our female pupils can thrive both academically and athletically.