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More girls active with inclusive approach to PE

08 September 2022
Group of young women walking outside for a PE class

Happy Wai-Walkers get active at lunchtime without having to change out of their school uniforms

Girls at Waikowhai Intermediate are claiming their turf with the establishment of their own lunchtime walkers’ group. When they said they liked walking with their friends but didn’t like getting changed into exercise gear to do it, the Wai-Walkers group was formed – an addition to the lunchtime runners’ group, made up mostly of boys.

This is one result of the Healthy Active Learning school’s more inclusive approach to physical activity, which puts student voice at the centre of decision making.

Janya Singh, 12, has been a part of the Wai-Walkers since its inception. She goes every week and, although she also plays netball, football and a bit of rugby with her brother, she says she enjoys being able to have a chat with friends while she’s walking.  

“Being outside in the nature and not having to run and having a nice calm stroll is what I like. It’s a good way for students to keep fit in a way that works for them,” she says. 

Waikowhai realised it could be doing more to support its female students to be active through gathering student insights with Sport Auckland’s Healthy Active Learning team.

The insight process included all 380 students completing a Physical Education survey, a girls-only focus group, conversations with teachers and students, a playground audit to see how play spaces were being used at break times, and the Healthy Active Learning team observing Health and Physical Education (HPE) lessons.

In response, the Healthy Active Learning team helped the school to design a more inclusive and holistic HPE curriculum and physical activity environment. Professional Learning and Development, through teacher release funding, was then provided around it for teachers.

Prior to Healthy Active Learning, teachers at Waikowhai valued the role of Health and Physical Education as part of student’s education, but many say they felt they lacked the confidence delivering it and saw it primarily about teaching sport-skills. Now, one teacher says, they liked “the wellbeing focus and encouragement to be physically involved no matter the level of skills”.

Healthy Active Learning advisor at Sport Auckland Greg Burne says teachers and students who were less confident in HPE were now enjoying it.

“We have seen a great example of this where a teacher set up a team challenge where students worked together to create a bridge using equipment from the PE shed,” he says.

 “The task fully engaged students who wouldn’t normally find PE enjoyable. Using varied contexts for learning can create an environment of inclusiveness in PE – and ultimately a greater chance of lifelong enjoyment of physical activity”.

Greg says he is particularly proud of the ‘open to learning’ attitude everyone at Waikowhai brought to the table, from the senior leadership team to the sports lead and teachers.

“They were all willing to challenge their own practice and respond positively to feedback – this attitude will allow the school to sustain meaningful, long term-change,” Greg says.

“We take pride in saying that this is now the physical activity environment at Waikowhai and it’s what makes Healthy Active Learning such a unique initiative, it’s a whole school approach,” he says.


Sport Auckland, along with CLM Community Sport, Harbour Sport and Sport Waitākere and supported by Aktive, delivers Healthy Active Learning across selected primary and intermediate schools in Tāmaki Makaurau.

Together this team supports schools and kura to create healthy and active learning environments, and better connections with their local communities, to improve the wellbeing of tamariki.

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