Multiple voices: improving participation of Muslim girls in physical education and school sport

Authors: Symeon Dagkasa; Tansin Benna; Haifaa Jawadb


This study reports on data from a larger-scale research project in one city in the West Midlands, England. The study was commissioned by the local education authority because of the rising incidence of parental withdrawal of Muslim girls from physical education. The aim was to provide evidence-based guidance to schools on improving the inclusion of Muslim girls in physical education and school sport. In-depth interviews in eight case study schools provided a thick description of the lived realities for 19 head teachers and teachers, 109 young people and 32 of their parents. Four additional focus group interviews were held with 36 Muslim young people in community/supplementary schools. Questionnaires were sent to 402 city schools and 12 supplementary schools (50 of which were returned). Methods focused on capturing views on experiences and concerns regarding the inclusion of Muslim girls in physical education. Content analysis and inductive and deductive analyses of data procedures were used. Responses indicated a diversity of positive and negative experiences across the community, with the majority of young people enjoying their school-based physical education lessons. Parental influences were strong across the age phases. Body and religious consciousness increased during adolescence. Common concerns centred on the need to improve recognition of religious requirements in schooling processes, policies and practices to provide inclusive learning environments for some Muslim young people. Problems such as poor communication, inflexible dress codes—particularly concerning wearing of the hijab (headscarf)—gender organisation and use of public swimming pools were identified. Patterns of good practice also emerged from across schools. Flexibility of approach, shared decision-making and situation-specific policies were most successful for supporting the inclusion of Muslim girls in physical education and school sport. Findings informed policy-orientated guidance for city schools.
Keywords: Muslim girls; Islam; Physical education; Religiosity; Culture
Affiliations: a School of Education, University of Birmingham, Birminghom, UK
b School of Philosopy, Theology and Religion, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
Published in: Sport, Education and Society, Volume 16, Issue March 2011 , pages 223 - 239
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