Study shows Yorkshire primary schools need to boost girls' sporting confidence

May 2018

We're really excited to finally be publishing our findings from some of the work we've been doing with Astrea Academy Trust, funded by the Laurel Trust...

NEWS RELEASE - Wednesday 2nd May 2018



A Yorkshire training company is working with primary schools across the region to boost confidence among girls and increase their motivation to play sport.

A new study conducted for the Laurel Trust by Yorkshire-based Totally Runable identifies a confidence gender gap in children as young as seven when it comes to participating in sport at school.

The study follows recent research by the Government Equalities Office which found that Year 3 (age seven to eight years) is a critical stage in keeping girls motivated to play sport at school. Beyond this age, girls become more self-conscious, lose confidence and many stop participating in sport.

Totally Runable conducted its research across four primary schools in the Astrea Academy Trust region. The research focused on the attitudes of girls, boys and teaching staff towards physical activity at school and explored whether confidence could be increased.

Totally Runable Director and former UK Number 1 sprinter, Emily Freeman, says: “Our research found that different attitudes and levels of confidence between boys and girls towards sport are emerging from as young as age seven. Girls are hugely influenced by role models in the media and this can affect their perception of physical activity and their confidence in taking part in sport at primary school.”

The study concluded that by mixing physical activity with mindset-based training sessions, girls’ confidence can be improved. The report also recommends work on a wider culture change in schools to normalise physical activity for all, irrespective of gender. The study forms an important part of the ongoing work by Totally Runable to create equity, not just equality, in sport at primary schools.

Emily Freeman adds: “Primary schools who treat girls and boys the same in terms of PE, sport and physical activity may well be doing them a disservice, because the world is not treating girls and boys the same in terms of sport. We are working to change the shape of school sport to allow girls and boys to enjoy and benefit from all that physical activity has to offer. In many cases this will involve a culture change within primary schools for boys, girls and teaching staff. More needs to be done to level the playing field in a real sense.”

Libby Nicholas, CEO of Astrea Academy Trust, says: “The results of this research are really important for us and for academies generally. All the available research tells us time and time again that girls are turning away from sport and physical activity at an increasingly younger age. There are complex issues at play here involving self-image, lack of role models, boys being picked as team captains and even the way that sport is reported by the media. These issues and others, combine to create an environment in which girls do not feel confident in their own abilities and are giving up before they have even tried.”

She adds: “The findings of this report tell me that we are on the right path. Through our ongoing partnership with Totally Runable we saw confidence levels improve both in physical ability and also in the classroom, which is a huge achievement. We will be rolling this training out across all 18 of our primary schools and are looking forward to seeing an even greater impact.”


Notes for Editors: A video accompanying the project can be found at:

A pdf of the full report can be downloaded here

Totally Runable Limited is a company based in Barnsley working in schools to build girls’ and female school staff confidence in sport, exercise and life. Olympic Sprinter and former UK Number 1 Emily Freeman founded the company in 2015 with ex-lawyer turned runner Natalie Jackson. More information is at

The Laurel Trust is a recently formed charity founded to support research and innovation for schools and academies in areas of multi-deprivation including opportunity areas. More information can be found at

Astrea Academy Trust is a multi-academy trust of primary, secondary and all-through schools based in South Yorkshire and Cambridgeshire. The Trust’s commitment is to “inspire beyond measure” and to deliver this Astrea Academy Trust Schools focus on encouraging and nurturing Resiliance, Empathy, Aspiration, Contribution and Happiness. For more information go to

For further press information please contact:

Emily Freeman at Totally Runable Mobile: 07771 530107 Email: