featured, Girls' Football, Schools' Football Week

The ESFA’s mission to create equal opportunities in girls’ football continues

The English Schools’ Football Association (ESFA), has been providing opportunities designed specifically for the development of girls’ football, since 1996 and this International Women’s Day, the ESFA shares how they continue to progress their mission of creating equality within the girls’ game.

For over 20 years, the ESFA has provided some of the best and most wide-ranging opportunities for school girls in England and continues to push further opportunities in the 22/23 season and beyond. As the National Governing Body for Schools’ Football in England, it is a high priority of the Association to ensure that activity is available and accessible for all children, across the country. At the start of the current season, girls’ National Schools’ Cup entries had reached a record number, with 1,933 girls’ teams in competitions, equating to around 30,000 individual players taking part.

In September 2022, after seeing this record breaking number for the third consecutive season, the ESFA consulted secondary schools that had entered National Cup competitions for girls in 22/23. With the ongoing buzz from the Women’s EUROs and yet more teams taking part in ESFA competitions, the Association was keen to investigate whether schools wanted new routes into National Cup competitions for girls, with a view to further broadening the scope and availability for girls to play in competitive schools’ cup fixtures.

The outcome of this consultation was the addition of six new national inter-school competitions for girls, beginning in January 2023 and running until June 2023. These additional six competitions attracted a further 485 entries to the season total, equating to approximately 7,200 more girls taking part across England.

Brand new opportunities in Schools’ Football for Girls

The ESFA’s new competitions for girls have been introduced at the U13 and U15 age groups (covering years 7 – 10), offering new opportunities for teams across three categories of competitions –

  • Small Schools’ Cup
  • B Teams’ Cup
  • ‘New Teams’ Cup

These additional competitions all contribute to the development of the girls’ game in schools and will give new players the opportunity to play competitively in National Cup competitions, against other teams that are in similar playing circumstances to them. This consultation process with schools allowed the ESFA to consider what further steps it could take to try and match opportunities for girls in National Cup competitions to those offered to boys. The positive uptake means that the Association can now look at ways to consolidate these opportunities into the ESFA’s annual competition offering.

More to come

Following the success of Schools’ Football Week 2023, in partnership with Pro:Direct Sport, the ESFA and Pro:Direct are working hard to continue to encourage more girls’ activity for schools. The Partnership will provide a proactive platform to actively engage and inspire schools, teachers, coaches and players to experience more football for girls.

Millie Lake from Pro:Direct said: “We’re really excited to continue our partnership with The ESFA, especially after the record breaking numbers of girls who took part in Schools’ Football Week in February. Giving schools the support and opportunity to equally embrace football for girls and boys is something we’re extremely passionate about. The Schools’ Football Week initiative, along with our continued work with The ESFA, gives us the perfect platform to build upon our mutual ambition, to get more kids, of all ages and both genders, playing and enjoying football.

Girls’ Football Stats – 2022/23

  • Over 120,000 girls taking part in National Cup activity (secondary age only) through the ESFA’s competition offer
  • Over 108,000 girls took part in Schools’ Football Week activity in February 2023
  • Over 8,000 girls’ football teams entered into National Cup competitions in 22/23
featured, Schools' Football Week

Schools’ Football Week set to see a quarter of a million school pupils take part from 6th – 12th February

The ESFA’s Schools’ Football Week campaign is once again highlighting the importance of girls’ football and will see over 108,000 girls benefitting from schools’ football activity this February

Schools’ Football Week (SFW), in partnership with Pro:Direct Sport, is an ongoing ESFA initiative designed as an opportunity for schools, teams and clubs from across the country to embrace schools’ football and the wellbeing benefits it provides to pupils and players. It celebrates the importance of schools’ football, competitive or otherwise, to pupils across England and provides teachers and coaches with tools and a motivation to further discuss the benefits of schools’ football within their educational environment.

This year, the ESFA is delighted to be working on SFW in partnership with Pro:Direct Sport – The World’s largest online specialist sports store, who will support the Schools’ Football Week campaign and help raise more awareness of this initiative than ever before.

The 2022 campaign saw the ESFA embrace the growing participation in girls’ football in schools – promoting the importance of equal access to schools’ football for both girls and boys. 2022 saw 56,000 girls taking part in schools’ football activity as part of the campaign. In this new season, following the incredible journey of the Lionesses and continuing the trend the ESFA have seen over the last two years, the Association plans to continue in their pursuit to celebrate girls’ and all schools’ football. The ESFA has seen the highest ever number of girls’ entries into National Cup Competitions in 22/23 and since opening registrations for SFW activity, the ESFA has also seen the highest ever participation numbers for SFW activity, including an increase of girls’ participation of over 50,000 on last year’s figures, meaning over 108,000 girls will benefit from the campaign this season and almost a quarter of a million school pupils across England will enjoy SFW activity.

Schools’ Football Week 2023 will see the ESFA reach huge new levels of participation –

  • Over 235,000 pupils registered to take part in SFW activity
  • Over 15,000 teams will benefit from the campaign
  • Over 1,400 schools have registered for events
  • Over 108,000 girls will benefit from schools’ football activity during SFW

In addition to continuing to champion girls’ football this season, Schools’ Football Week is also focussing on: 

– Airing live National Schools’ Cup draws for the second season, on the ESFA’s YouTube Channel, ESFA TV on Monday 6 February 

– Providing more classroom resources than ever before, including a focus on Children’s Mental Health and the positive benefits of sport

– Three balls and a Pro:Direct Ball carrier for every school plus some SFW branded bibs for the first 250 schools that registered activity

The campaign isn’t designed to focus wholly on competitive football, but the wide-ranging benefits that being part of a team can have on school age children in England. For example, SFW aims to bring together opportunities for schools to bring football off the pitch and into classrooms, providing learning resources from other ESFA partners that can be useful tools to engage pupils in the wider world of football.

Stuart Botham, ESFA Chair said, “On behalf of the ESFA, I am delighted to see the Association further its partnership with Pro:Direct for Schools’ Football Week 2023. Schools’ Football Week has been, and continues to be, a fantastic platform on which to truly celebrate the many and far reaching benefits of schools’ football. Working on this project alongside an organisation such as Pro:Direct, will allow the ESFA to share our passion for this campaign further than ever before. I have been delighted to see the huge increase in participation from schools across England for this 2023 campaign and we are all looking forward to seeing the activities schools put on from the 6th – 12th February and beyond”

Sam Baldock, Chief Brand Officer from Pro:Direct Sport said ‘We’re really excited to partner with The ESFA on Schools’ Football Week. We think that we can add significant value and hope to make this the most inspiring Schools’ Football Week to date. We plan to provide lots of practical guidance and tools that will help teachers, coaches and volunteers, both during Schools’ Football Week and beyond. We’ll be using our extensive contacts in the game to make sure that there will be plenty of things to get the pupils excited too! This initiative, along with our continued work with the ESFA, gives us the perfect platform to build upon our mutual ambition – to get more children, of all ages and genders, playing football.”

The Importance of Schools’ Football Week:

  • To share the importance of schools’ football across England 
  • To show proof of the mental and physical health benefits of schools’ football 
  • To share stories and experiences to engage and inspire players and pupils  
  • To heighten the profile of the English Schools’ FA as National Governing Body for schools’ football in England
  • To elevate and promote participation numbers for schools’ football
  • To showcase the talent and dedication shown by schools in England to support football as part of the curriculum  

Head over to the Schools’ Football Week website for more information and resources – www.schoolsfootballweek.co.uk