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New study aims to increase female participation in football in England’s schools

A new study designed for schools in England will aim to increase female participation in football. Loughborough University’s collaborative project with the FA will engage teachers to give young women and girls better access to the sport.

Over a three-year period, Loughborough academics will collect a breadth of data sourced via surveys, case studies, and observation work. The study will engage individuals from wide-ranging diverse and social economic backgrounds. 

Researchers will also engage children in the research via child-friendly methods to understand how teaching methods are influencing their football experiences.

Conducted nationwide with circa 300-500 teaching staff, the data will be presented to the FA at multiple points to shape future learnings and inform the FA’s initiatives related to this project.

Dr Ed Cope, the lead researcher from Loughborough University and part of the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, explained:

“This is a fantastic opportunity to support the FA in achieving one of their key strategic objectives. The funded PhD will offer the opportunity to undertake in-depth, longitudinal research with the help of contributing positively towards girls experiencing football.

“The School has a rich history of working with the FA and so it is pleasing this continues, in part through this project.”

Donna McIvor, Senior Development Manager at The FA, explained the significance of the research:

“By 2024, The FA’s ambition is for girls to have the same football opportunities as boys in schools and clubs.

“The FA, working with trusted partners, want to influence and change perceptions, showing that football can and should be played by girls. It is bringing together a growing community of people of all genders, ages and backgrounds who want to champion equal access for girls, helping create independent, resilient young girls who will be a force for good in all local communities.”

McIvor added:

“Teachers are crucial to achieving the ambition of equal access and therefore we must invest in their development. The ambition is to transform the PE learning experience for girls in primary schools and modernise the secondary school curriculum offer, through exceptional programme training and teacher professional development. 

“Through working collaboratively with Loughborough University, we will establish FA Communities of Practice to provide on-going professional development for the local school workforce to ensure high quality, football in PE experiences for girls.”

The first findings from the study are due to be presented in early 2025.