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Surrey students thrive from introduction to rugby

29 January 2014

  • More Surrey schools introduced to rugby through All Schools programme
  • Rugby’s core values having a positive effect on all areas of school life
Student participants at the All Schools rugby festival held at Purley John Fisher RFC

Photo: RFU Archive

Two hundred students from schools across Surrey took part in a festival of rugby held at Purley John Fisher RFC last month as part of the RFU’s All Schools programme.

All Schools was launched in 2012 with the aim of introducing the game into 400 non-rugby playing state secondary schools by 2015 and to 750 by 2019 as part of the RFU’s Rugby World Cup 2015 legacy plans.

The students, all in years 7, 8 and 9, came from De Stafford, Oakwood, the Warwick, the Quest Academy, Harris Academy Merton and Evelyn Grace Academy, and are all new to the sport. Judging by the smiles on display, the pupils were enjoying their rugby and it was heartwarming to see 11- and 12-year-olds helping opponents back to their feet after tackling them!

Teachers in attendance were unanimous in their praise of the positive effect rugby’s core values are having on pupils in all areas of school life, finding that teamwork, discipline and respect shown on the rugby pitch have transferred to the classroom.

“Teachers across other subjects are seeing improvements from students,” said Tom Bevan, PE teacher at the Quest Academy. “Students who were perhaps a little silly in lessons last year have a lot more focus in class. It’s a great sport for channelling energy and blowing off steam.”

Leo Gilbert, Principal at Harris Academy Merton, added: “We find rugby is particularly good at encouraging students to take responsibility for what they’re doing and to develop a leadership role within a team.

“Having RFU coaches coming into the school to take sessions and mentor the coaches and teachers also makes a big difference. They have played the game to a high level and know how to get the best out of youngsters through their coaching expertise, which creates credibility. You can see the students looking up to them.”

PE teacher at Harris Academy Merton, Alex Wiltshire, commented: “The kids have really embraced the game and we have new faces coming to training every week. We’ve also seen more camaraderie among the Year 8s and 9s in school life as they know they might play together on the pitch.”

Student participants at the All Schools rugby festival held at Purley John Fisher RFC

Photo: RFU Archive

The programme has also unearthed some genuine sporting talent whose lives could be transformed by their introduction to rugby. Tom Bevan, PE teacher at the Quest Academy, explained: “All of our students love playing rugby and we have twins in the team, Jonathan and Aristot Benz-Salomon, who have really excelled. 

“They arrived from Ghana via Spain and have come from nothing really and are now living on an estate in Croydon. They are incredibly talented and through playing rugby they now have the chance to participate in trials for a sports scholarship to Whitgift School and have been invited to join the ‘Harlequins Inner London Developing Player Programme’, which is an amazing opportunity for them.”

Aristot Benz-Salomon said: “I put a lot of effort into rugby because they treat me well, I’m good at it and I enjoy it. I’m only 12 years old but I hope I can have a good future through playing rugby. I’ve joined my local club Warlingham RFC because I enjoy it so much and there are good people there.”

As part of the programme, schools that are new to rugby are identified in regional clusters and linked to a local club. By establishing relationships with rugby clubs, it will help the school and club to retain more players and grow the game.

RFU Rugby Development Officer, Adam Cottingham, said: “All Schools festivals are based at their link community rugby clubs. Students soon feel comfortable in that environment and it helps the transition from school rugby player to club rugby player. The Quest Academy from South Croydon now provides seven players to their local club and a girl also attended her first training session this week, which is great.

Pupils from Evelyn Grace School, Brixton, have also been queuing up to give rugby the big thumbs-up.

Andrea Marino Fosse said: “I’ve learnt teamwork and cooperation through rugby. To play well you have to work hard with your teammates. You need to stick together as a team.” 

Idreus added: “Rugby is a great sport. It’s a game based on sportsmanship and discipline which makes you better.” 

And Kevin Camilo summed it up by saying: “I enjoy rugby because you get to run around a lot, work as a team, fix up and look sharp!”

And there is no question Camilo and his teammates will look sharp. As part of the All Schools programme, schools get to attend a Canterbury workshop to design their own rugby shirt and the project seems to have got the creative juices flowing at Harris Academy, as Wiltshire explained: “We opened the competition to everyone in the school and we’ve had some amazing designs. The creativity of our pupils is incredible. The kids are so excited and can’t wait to play in their shirt because they feel they have ownership of it.”

For more information about All Schools, visit