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Photo: RFU Archive
Two Manchester MPs have applauded an initiative by the Rugby Football Union (RFU) that aims to get over 1 million more schoolchildren actively involved in sport after watching local youngsters in action.
Paul Goggins, Labour MP for Wythenshawe and Sale East, and John Leech, the Lib/Dem MP for Manchester Withington, may have different political leanings, but both are keen Manchester City followers and they are in agreement on another sporting front after recent fact-finding visits to Manchester Health Academy (MHA) in Wythenshawe and Chorlton High School, Withington respectively.
Three Manchester schools – East Manchester Academy complete the trio – were among 100 nationwide selected to pilot the All Schools project. Former schoolboy scrum-half Goggins not only expressed his full support for the programme but also got involved in a game of touch rugby at MHA.
“I’m absolutely of the view that sport has a part to play in the development of all youngsters and that there is a sport for every young person,” he said. “The important thing is for children to have an insight into the breadth of what’s available so that they can make an informed choice and do what they are good at and what they enjoy.
“It’s about confidence and physical fitness and personal health – all things that matter so much as you are growing up. The youngsters here display all levels of ability and were joining in the same game. That’s great to see, but rugby is a great game for that.
“I was very excited about the All Schools project as soon as I heard about it from the Academy and the RFU and immediately wanted to show my support for it. Rugby has been hugely neglected in schools in Manchester – and elsewhere for that matter – and the idea that it is being reborn across a whole range of schools is great.
“And it’s also very good for the game because the worst thing for rugby is the idea that it is only played at certain schools. The game misses out on a huge amount of talent, so let’s give everyone a chance to try the game.
“I went to Chorlton High School to see the development work the Rugby Football Union is doing to find the next generation of rugby stars.” said John Leech. “It’s been a few years since I’ve played rugby, but I was impressed by the work the RFU is doing with the school and promised to work with them to develop rugby across the area.
“Getting young people involved in any sport is undoubtedly a positive and highly-beneficial activity, no matter which sport we are talking about, and this RFU scheme is an excellent example. The target is to get new schools playing rugby and to make the sport available to a set of children who are new to the game and can only benefit from all the advantages that sport delivers.
“Watching the youngsters in action today and seeing the enthusiasm and expertise of the coaching and teaching staff, it is clear that the All Schools initiative is exactly the type of innovation we need in all our schools and across the full sporting spectrum.”
Community Rugby Coach Jason Duffy, who has driven the Chorlton project and worked with the school and staff said: “It was great to have John showing an interest in what we’re doing and I’m sure the children and the staff appreciated his visit.
“Every member of Years 7 and 8 has taken part in curriculum rugby and an after-school club. Over 250 pupils have been involved in the first school term and the impact has been such that our links with Broughton Park RFC have resulted in 12 children from the school now playing in the club’s combined Under 12/13 team.
“The overall reaction from the children was fantastic. Participation levels were very high and averaged 25 kids in the after-school club, while the staff have also been very positive and are all booked on to a Rugby Ready course specifically for the school in February.
“The Rugby World Cup presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a massive sporting legacy for our children and the All Schools programme is a part of building that legacy by getting them involved now.”
“If you just look at the numbers of children involved you see the size of the impact,” says Vice-Principal Gaynor Gorman. “These children want to play rugby and the impact for me is that this gives them a variety of sports and not just football in an area that is predominantly football.
“Another impact is that the project has shown that rugby is also a game for girls and you can see a mixture of boys and girls involved.
“I also believe that sport is something you don’t just have to play – you can become interested as a spectator and that interest can last a lifetime. Hopefully we are putting seeds in place among our younger students that will grow and go beyond the Academy into later life.
“The fact that students and parents get the chance of tickets to watch top class players in action is a social aspect of the All Schools project that shouldn’t be underestimated. It gives our children the chance to do something that is active, healthy and fun that the whole family can join in with.
“Rugby also creates discipline and teamwork and that aspect of sport has a knock-on effect with everything we do in the school and in later life.”