- Erdington MP shows his rugby skills at North Birmingham Academy
- Teacher hails success of RFU scheme
Photo: Leo Wilkinson Photography
Birmingham MP Jack Dromey went back to his rugby roots when he attended a training session at North Birmingham Academy as part of the RFU All Schools initiative.
Dromey was captain of rugby at Cardinal Vaughan School in London and he also played in the pack for the Sunbury club before injuries sustained in a car accident ended his playing career.
The Labour MP for Erdington showed that he lost none of his rugby skills when he joined in the session at the 1,000-pupil school in Perry Common and he was delighted to lend his support to the All Schools programme.
All Schools has been launched by the RFU to create a step-change in the number of secondary schools playing rugby union and give over one million young people opportunities to play. it forms one of the RFU’s seven legacy strands of the Rugby World Cup 2015 to deliver the greatest participation legacy for the game.
Competitive rugby union is currently played in around 1,500 state secondary schools. Through All Schools, the RFU aims to introduce the game into 400 non-rugby playing secondary schools by 2015 and up to 750 by 2019.
“I have been a long-standing fan of rugby union. I warmly welcome the initiative of the RFU,” Dromey said.
“This is a school in an area of immense deprivation but it is a highly successful school giving young people the best possible start in life.
“It’s to the great credit of the RFU that it has teamed up with the school and I think it will have three benefits: firstly, it will contribute to the health and wellbeing of young people in this area.
“Secondly, it’s good for their social development and thirdly, as I know from my own experience, there are some outstanding athletes in this school and because the RFU has reached out to schools like this, who knows, we might have England players of the future going through North Birmingham Academy right now.”
The All Schools initiative also aims to introduce the core values that make rugby union such a special sport for youngsters.
“Rugby was very good for my personal fitness – I suffered when I stopped playing because I ended up being 18 stone, but that was many years ago,” Dromey said.
“It was a wonderful collegiate endeavour as well. We used to have a good time and a bit of a laugh. It wasn’t just what happened on the pitch, it was the camaraderie of the rugby team off the pitch and I look back on it with great warmth.”
Benefits and rewards
Students at North Birmingham Academy have already benefited from the coaching of Matt Wooldridge, one of the RFU Community Rugby Coaches in Birmingham, the ground-breaking work of Chris Sigsworth, the RFU Rugby Development Officer for Greater Birmingham and links with the nearby Aston Old Edwardians club.
“The scheme has been fantastic and it has given us the chance to develop a sport which wasn’t already in the Academy and to get to the point where they can play against local teams,” said Craig Hetherington, the head of PE at North Birmingham Academy.
“We have a couple of kids who were more challenging before we started the course. There were examples of poor behaviour and low achievement but having been on the course and understood the values of rugby they are less chatty in lessons because they don’t want to miss out on the next game.”
Hetherington is a keen rugby player himself and plays in the back row for Sutton Coldfield-based Veseyans, one of the local clubs who have benefited from the All Schools project.
“Local clubs – Aston OE, Veseyans and Sutton Coldfield – have benefited from what this school has offered,” he said.
“We’ve already had one player who had never played rugby before who has made it into the Greater Birmingham county side.”
A game for all
Steve Grainger, the RFU Rugby development Director, said: “Rugby union is a game for all schools – all schools can play, all young people in the school can play and rugby has an impact on all of the school. We want to use the once-in-a-generation opportunity of the RWC to increase the amount of rugby in schools and encourage new players to join local clubs.”
Through All Schools, North Birmingham Academy will receive resources and funding over three years, including kit and equipment as well as hands-on coaching support. Schools that are new or have only just started to play rugby union will become self-sufficient rugby playing schools at the end of the three years.
“The course has brought coaches in to work with non-specialist rugby teachers so that every single kid in every age group has had the opportunity to play rugby union,” Hetherington said.
“Our next focus is to try to get some girls' teams out. We have invested money in tackle bags, tackle shields, balls and kit and the opportunity to go on a stadium tour to Twickenham, which the kids really enjoyed.”