Tess Howard welcomes equal opportunity in school sport after £600m investment
England midfielder Tess Howard praised the government’s latest measure to grant girls equal access to all school sport.
After winning the women’s gold and men’s bronze at the Commonwealth Games, England Hockey wrote a letter to the government in the summer after being inspired by the Lionesses’ feat at the Euros, calling for investment in Physical Education.
While the Lionesses’ own letter specified the accessibility of football, England Hockey’s focused on all team sports.
The government said the measures would be backed by over £600million in funding over the next two academic years, specifically designed to help improve the quality of PE and sports in primary schools, and Howard welcomes the investment.
“We are hailing the fact that we now have it in writing that schools have to give equal opportunity for all sports, and we’re hailing this as some sort of miracle,” Howard, who scored the crucial second goal as England won Commonwealth gold, told the PA news agency.
“But quite simply, it’s enacting the Equality Act of 2010. I’m a bit confused about why it was such a big deal.
“Two hours of PE a week also, that is not a big ask because the health guidelines state more than that as the recommended dose.”
She added: “It’s a statement of the obvious, but the funding that goes with it is the important part.
“The money the government has pledged, that’s the commitment that I’m interested in and I am looking forward to seeing how that strategy is developed.”
On International Women’s Day it was announced that schools will be told they must deliver a minimum of two hours of PE each week and that girls and boys should be able to play the same sports in lessons and extra-curricular clubs.
As a child Howard was forced into giving up a sport she had enjoyed playing whilst at school because they did not offer it for girls.
“Even at my school, which I thought helped me develop as a woman in sport, I didn’t have the same opportunities as the boys. I had to start my own rugby club but it found its demise quite quickly,” the 24-year-old said.
“I played rugby up until I was 11, and then I couldn’t play with the boys any more, so I switched to hockey.”
However, Howard wanted to highlight another issue in women’s sport – that of uniforms.
On March 3, England Hockey announced new uniform regulations allowing players the freedom to choose to wear shorts, skirts or skorts, with no requirement to wear the same item as other players in the team, as long as they are the same colour.
England Hockey has adapted the playing kit regulations for the 2022/23 season to enable players to feel comfortable and included when playing our sport, and to reduce the cost demands of bespoke playing kit 🙌
— England Hockey (@EnglandHockey) March 3, 2023
Players were also allowed to wear any items, including those not in team colours, such as long-sleeved tops, leggings, cycling shorts, hijabs or turbans.
“One thing that is really important is their uniforms, something I’m extremely passionate about that we don’t require gender based uniforms that we let girls wear whatever they want to play and they give them what I call rigorously inclusive sportswear policies,” Howard said.
“Rigorous choice, genuine choice because when a girl rocks up to this environment to play sport, they need to feel comfortable in their own skin.
“Even as an international athlete now I am trying to change the norms in hockey because I believe that we should have the choice to wear skirts or shorts because shorts is not a masculine item.
“But unfortunately in hockey because the men wear shorts and the women wear skorts, it is gendered, it is sexualised.”