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Yorkshire MP describes All Schools programme ads 'absolutely fantastic'

05 March 2013

  • Children get taste of new sporting culture
  • Club link provides scope to develop
Craig Whittaker, MP

Photo: RFU Archive

Craig Whittaker, Conservative MP for Calder Valley, is supporting an initiative by the Rugby Football Union (RFU), which aims to get more than one million more schoolchildren actively involved in sport after watching youngsters in action in his constituency.

Speaking after a visit to Brighouse High School – one of six West Yorkshire schools involved in the All Schools project – Mr Whittaker confirmed his backing for the scheme, which is putting coaching resources into schools who have never played rugby and introducing them to a new sporting culture.

“I think the programme is brilliant, absolutely fantastic,” he said. “To see all these young people actively involved, excited about it and putting all their efforts into it, it’s promoting discipline and healthy living. The RFU are to be commended for putting such a great programme in place.

“There is also the added benefit that the boys and girls are not just playing rugby in school time. They are playing at lunchtimes and in after-school sessions and there is a pathway to the local club, which enables them to establish links that keep them involved in the sport.

“Another important aspect of the All Schools initiative is that it is bringing a relatively new sport into an area that does not traditionally play the game in schools. And with that comes an introduction to the core values that rugby embraces. 

“To play rugby safely requires a high degree of discipline from the players, both in playing the game and in listening and learning to the coaches and being attentive to the information they are getting. People talk to me all the time about undisciplined youth, which in the large number of cases isn’t true, but what this programme is doing is to develop transferable skills that can be taken into the classroom.

“And let’s not forget that the RFU are solely responsible for the funding which has gone into the programme. They deserve huge credit for making that investment into young people and into the sport itself and promoting it within schools.

“That has to be a good thing, particularly on the back of last year’s Olympics and Paralympics and with the Rugby World Cup coming up. What a great way to promote the sport and hopefully to get the young people involved who will be the future of the game in years to come.” 

Strong support from the scheme also comes from two other closely involved parties, Headmistress Liz Cresswell and Richard Turner, Chairman of local RU club Old Brodleians, who are based just up the road in Hipperholme and are currently putting out 12 junior sides each weekend.

“We’re very pleased with this initiative at Brighouse High School,” said Mr Turner. “We’ve always had a few boys coming through from the school, but this initiative is proving very popular with the girls and we are very keen to launch a girls’ team at the club.

“We have the wherewithal to provide facilities for the girls and hopefully develop at the Under 13 age group and upwards. We’ve had a few younger girls playing in our Mini Section in the past, but at 12 they have to stop playing alongside the boys and if we can get a few more girls together, we can create a team and take it forward as part of the club. 

“This is a new initiative for us, but we have a very close link now with Brighouse High, with one of our current first-team players actually coaching at the school. It’s a fantastic initiative for us and although it’s early days, we see it growing from here.

“We have over 250 junior players, with lots of teenagers, who see the rugby club as their second home and love being there.”

“We’re delighted with the way that All Schools has engaged the students and revitalised interest in rugby – it has been brilliant,” says the Head. “Particular success has been the girls involvement – I’ve been really impressed with how they’ve embraced the game.

“An example of how well it is working is the number of girls who are turning up to play in the lunchtime rugby clubs that we are running.

“In terms of behavioural impact, we have our own set of core values and we have good behaviour, but the idea of promoting those core values through rugby can only help to endorse the high standards we are already committed to.”