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Inner-city kids warm to RFU programme

17 December 2012

  • Leicester All Schools Programme strikes rich vein of talent
  • Inner-city youngsters respond to RFU project
Pupils from Judgemeadow Community College, part of the RFU All Schools programme in Leicestershire

Photo: RFU Archive

Rugby union in Leicester is synonymous with international excellence and it is hard to credit that there are parts of the city unfamiliar with both the achievements of the Tigers and the mechanics of the game that has made Welford Road a renowned sporting venue.

But that situation is changing thanks to a Rugby Football Union initiative, the All Schools Programme, which has uncovered a rich vein of interest and talent at the three schools in the city selected to take part in the project.

All Schools has been hugely successful across the country, but in inner-city Leicester the results have been exceptional, with around 150 boys in the Under 15 and Under 13 age groups now attending regular after-school sessions and a parallel programme for girls mirroring that success, a success made even more rewarding because a major proportion of the youngsters involved are from the Asian community, which traditionally favours soccer and cricket.

The initiative is being delivered across 100 city schools nationwide and in Leicester, St Paul’s Catholic School, Judgemeadow Community College and Hamilton Community College are the schools involved.

At St Paul’s, 60 youngsters are involved in the coaching programme, 50 boys are learning the game at Judgemeadow and at Hamilton, which has not had rugby coaching for five years, 30 players are involved at Under 13 level and formed two teams for the second festival at ‘Jimmies’ this week.

The All Schools Programme has also embraced a cluster of three schools in which girls rugby has been the coaching focus, with Judgemeadow involved on two fronts, along with Wreake Valley College and Stonehill High School.

For Jenna Studley, Rugby Development Officer for Leicestershire & Rutland, the impact that All Schools has had on the youngsters and the job satisfaction that enthusiasm generates are the icing on the cake.

“I’ve been able to enjoy a hands-on approach with the All Schools work and to get out there and see what a difference the programme has made.” says Jenna. “The feedback I’ve had from schools has been excellent and overall, the success of the programme has exceeded my expectations.”

That view is endorsed by sports master Nigel Moyse, who has been driving the project at Judgemeadow.

He says: “All Schools has had a great impact. We have been working hard to promote new sports for the students and none was as different for the students as rugby. To my knowledge we had only two students in our school of 1250 with any rugby experience.

“In the short time that we have had links with the RFU every student has experienced rugby in lessons and the extracurricular clubs have grown massively. We have on average 50 students turn up on a Friday after school, peaking at 75. That includes up to 29 girls.

“This is in a school with a catchment that has basically no tradition or experience of rugby, which is fantastic. The engagement of RFU staff Luke Green, Scott Johnson and RDO Studley has been excellent, offering support for staff and tailoring sessions to suit the students’ level of progression, but ensuring that they always enjoy themselves.

“Rugby is becoming embedded in the curriculum time and in extracurricular activity. The rugby club has attracted a blend of different types of students. I have been extremely pleased with the input of scheme and I can only hope that the contribution can continue and encourage even more young people into sport.”

Nor is the impact measurable purely in fitness terms. The coaching sessions appear to have influenced discipline. Another Friday ‘fixture’ on the weekly calendar at Judgemeadow is detention for the mid-week infringements not committed on the rugby field. Now, the prospect of missing the rugby training adds a new incentive for the students to stay onside in the classroom.

All of which would not have been possible without the go-ahead from the school’s senior management, but Vice Principal Brian Killeen is clearly happy with the impact the All Schools delivery has had at Judgemeadow.

He said: “The programme has allowed Nigel to proceed at a much faster pace than would have been possible and the response of our students has been absolutely inspiring. The numbers involved have been excellent and the students are incredibly committed and positive.

“I have also been impressed by the quality of the RFU coaching staff, not only in their rugby knowledge, but also in the quality of their interaction with the students and in the positive messages they have been providing. The programme seems to be an ideal way to promote the sport.

“It is very early to say what the future holds, but I feel that it will lead to rugby becoming a very established sport at the school.”

And a final word from the students. Said Year 7 pupil Mohamed Karim:  “All I knew about rugby was that it was about contact. Now I can go crazy and let off my adrenalin. Rugby is the most fun sport we do. I’m aiming to join a club if I can fit it in with mosque and school work.”

On the girls' side, Year 10 student Alysha Gareja said: “I knew nothing at all about rugby before the programme began, but I think it’s a good addition because it’s not the same as other games and I can get involved in contact. You get to tackle people and you get muddy. I’m interested in joining a club because I think the game is fun.”