A 12-year-old girl from Great Easton is campaigning for PE equality after learning that her school does not offer rugby to girls as part of the curriculum.

Iris Smith has played rugby since she was six years old, starting at Saffron Walden Rugby Club as the only girl among more than 25 boys.

She was described by her coach, Jason Marshall, as the "backbone" of her squad and a natural leader.

Since then, she has played as captain for Bishop's Stortford Rugby Club (BSRFC) U13s.

Dunmow Broadcast: Iris Smith (second from left) has been campaigning for girls to play rugby as part of the PE curriculum.Iris Smith (second from left) has been campaigning for girls to play rugby as part of the PE curriculum. (Image: Olivia Smith)

Iris was also selected to go to Marseille this month as an official mascot for Jaguar Land Rover's Defenders of Tomorrow at the Rugby World Cup, after judges were "incredibly impressed" by her dedication to build a better future for girls' rugby.

After playing inter-school tag rugby in primary school, Iris assumed she would be able to continue in secondary school, but found that while rugby was offered as an extra-curricular activity, it did not form part of the girls' PE curriculum.

Iris, who attends Hockerill Anglo-European College in Bishop's Stortford, said: "I just feel really sad and confused that I have to ask for the opportunity to be taught the same as boys in our PE curriculum.

"I love everything about my school so this is why I feel so upset.

"That's why I've had to get my own support from professional players like Red Roses Captain Marli Packer, but I'd also love some local support from girls and boys who feel the same."

A spokesperson for BSRFC said: "It is hard when she sees her male counterparts learn/play rugby in PE and inter-school matches, yet she can’t because she is a girl."

Iris wrote to school staff members calling for rugby to be offered to girls as part of PE lessons.


School principal David Woods said: "Iris's achievement is excellent and we fully support her campaign for girls' rugby.

"The challenge is that we cannot provide every sport that every student would like us to offer.

"It is not that we don't want rugby in the curriculum, however, it is simply that the other main sports for girls - netball, hockey, football - are so popular that we focus on them.

"We also have a regular programme of fixtures with other schools in these sports and want to keep these going.

"As yet rugby is not in the same position of participation and opportunities."

Explaining the school's provision for girls, he added: "Rugby is offered at Hockerill for girls through a thriving after school activity.

"Participation is excellent at this group and the squad are coached by a dedicated community rugby coach.

"Such is the level at which the group are now playing that we will shortly be able to arrange fixtures with other schools and clubs.

"As it grows at Hockerill through the extra-curricular club and reaches similar levels of participation and opportunity to compete with other teams as the current curriculum sports, then we fully anticipate that rugby will become part of curriculum PE."