RowUK Research and iRoW

At RowUK, we believe our delivery model to be ground-breaking and we are confident it will become of national significance to those interested in using sport to enhance social mobility. As we continue to grow our programmes, we want to expose our model to the scrutiny of independent academics and, in the process, gain important insights.


We believe a good way to discover best practice is through a consistent set of metrics and an open sharing of the resulting analysis. We want to evaluate the long-term social and economic benefits of our programmes and to collaborate with partners sharing our commitment to Widening Participation. This term, used by educationalists, refers to the process of ensuring underrepresented groups apply to higher education and, more importantly, enjoy an experience there which is rewarding and enduring.


In partnership with the University of Leeds, we have developed a research programme called iRoW (impact of Rowing on Wellbeing). Funding has been confirmed to roll out a one-year pilot across the Gorse Academies Trust from September this year. This allows us to build an accurate picture of what we are seeking to measure and how we are going to measure it. It will include a full-time Research Intern, working within UoL’s Educational Engagement Team, to be supervised by Prof. David Cottrell (UoL School of Psychology), Dr Mark Hopkins (UoL School of Food Science and Nutrition) and RowUK. The research protocol has passed ethics approval and we have consent from Gorse to work with their students and seek ascent from parents and guardians.


There is plenty of evidence surrounding the impact of rowing and sport on physical health, but surprisingly little on how it affects other outcomes. We want to start by understanding how our programmes affect physical and mental wellbeing and, in the long-term, we hope to determine how this relates to school attendance, academic attainment, admission to university and employability.


We are curious and we are pragmatic. Whether the goal of the research is Widening Participation or

performance sport, we are already starting to establish ourselves as a collaborative hub. As we build our data sets, both within and beyond the scope of iRoW, collaboration with rowing clubs and programmes across the country is welcome. In addition to participation data, RowUK Research might extend to involve everything from further biomechanical analysis to championing new and innovative performance software. It might include tapping into census data and conducting longitudinal statistical modelling to show economic impact. What our curiosity does require is for us to be open to good ideas wherever we find them - and being willing to challenge our own preconceptions if better methods come along. 


iRoW represents a first step towards scientifically evaluating the co-curricular environment we need to provide if our young people are reach their full potential. We are fortunate to be working with academics as committed to Widening Participation as ourselves, but also ones who will hold our feet to the fire if our model has a weakness.


We believe education needs to take this sort of evaluation seriously if we are to close the opportunity gap in this country. We will start modestly, in a niche sport in a city in the north of England, but we look forward to contributing to the debate before long.

We want to evaluate the long-term social and economic benefits of our programmes.

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