Children as young as 7 and 8 (UK Year 3 and older) should not be getting changed for PE together in schools

If 12 and 13 year olds in secondary school were asked to strip down to their underwear together in a mixed class of girls and boys there would be be plenty of complaints. If you think that increased privacy should always be in place for pubescent children then it follows that children from the age of 8, year 3 (at the latest), should be split into single sex groups when changing for PE, games and swimming.

What age do children begin puberty?
About 12 is the average age for girls to begin their periods and boys develop later than girls. These are just generalisations and menstruation is not at the start of puberty.
About 10% of girls will have started their periods before the end of year 6 (end of junior school) and some will start in year 5. These girls are not odd, these ages are within the normal pattern of development.

Half of all girls begin puberty before the age of 10
Breast development and pubic hair signal the onset of puberty a long time before the first period.
Puberty in girls usually begins between the ages of 8 to 12 years (only a year later for boys) and large scale research in the US suggests that 6 or 7 could be considered to be “normal.”

In a year 3 Class 2 or 3 girls may begin puberty out of 15 girls.
About 1 in 6 white girls and 2 in 5 black girls had breast development by their 8th birthday according to published research

Other research concurs, around the age of 8 is a normal age for puberty to start in caucasian children

What this all means is that statistically around half of girls in school will begin puberty before the final year of junior school. It seems most schools (but not all) do split children in year 6 for changing purposes but many, many schools do not split younger children.

I suspect this may not be an issue for boys? Almost all women will recall changing for sport being an unpleasant and embarrassing experience when going through puberty (even when they are only with girls). Why make it so much worse for the youngest girls, who are the first in their class to experience these changes, by making them strip off in front of boys too.

It is significant that Steingraber says, “early puberty alters a girl’s social interactions in ways that produce trauma and erode self-esteem.”

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