THE Lionesses on Sunday evening united the Queen and the Spice Girls. While the pop stars hailed their victory over Germany in the final of the European Championship as a symbol of “true girl power”, Her Majesty’s more measured tribute said that it was “an example that will be an inspiration for girls and women today, and for future generations”.

And it united the nation, with 17m tuning in, and many more watching at public screenings to make this the most watched TV programme of the year so far.

It is to be hoped that the Lionesses’ victory, along with the equally brilliant performances of female athletes at the Commonwealth Games, will encourage more young girls and women to break through the “can’t do” barrier and become physically active.

And schools have to play their part.

Footballer turned pundit Ian Wright was in fine emotional form after the final, and he said: “If girls are not allowed to play football just like the boys can in their PE lessons after this tournament, then what are we doing?”

According to Football Association figures, 72 per cent of primary schools offered equal football coaching to boys and girls last year, but in secondary schools that figure fell to just 44 per cent, and only a third of secondary schools offered girls equal access to football coaching through extracurricular clubs outside school hours.

There are huge demands on the curriculum but schools should be seizing the moment and enabling, as Her Majesty hopes, the Lionesses to become a real inspiration and to leave a real legacy for the next generation.