YOUNG PEOPLE excluded from mainstream education are being offered the chance to get their lives back on track through an innovative rugby-based initiative.
FairPlay supported by Barclays Spaces for Sports comprises training schemes throughout the country aimed at changing the attitudes, enthusiasm and lives of more than 2,400 'at risk' youngsters.
Children's charity Wooden Spoon has teamed up with Barclays Spaces for Sports, the Rugby Football Union (RFU) and Enterprise Education Trust to launch a series of eight-week schemes for those either in or on the edge of the criminal justice system through exclusion from school.
Working in two phases - the first starting in January 2010 and finishing in July 2010, the second starting in September 2010 and finishing in April 2011 - the project will deliver 120 intensive eight-week schemes across England, combining both physical rugby training and classroom learning including life, enterprise and financial skills.
Many of the youngsters targeted have some of the poorest rates of educational attainment and future employment as well as some of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse and long term unemployment.
The partnership will work with disadvantaged young people aged 14 and 15, both male and female, aiming to reduce vandalism, violence, gang culture and fear of crime, educating participants in acceptable social behaviour and aggression management as well improving self-confidence.
The coaching programme will be delivered by RFU Community Coaches, who have developed relationships with youth offending teams and local rugby clubs in their areas during an initial Try for Life pilot funded by Wooden Spoon, making them well placed to ensure the right partnerships are established to deliver a strong programme to those young people that need it most.
The classroom element will be delivered by Enterprise Education Trust (EET) trainers who have links with Pupil Referral Units, schools and business mentors throughout the country.
Barclays Spaces for Sports is a community sports programme which has created 200 sustainable sports sites in the UK in partnership with the Football Foundation, giving more than half a million people in disadvantaged communities the opportunity to benefit. It was extended globally in 2008, with further sites and projects established in South Africa, the United States, UK, Spain and Zambia.
Jason Leonard OBE said: "Rugby is a contact sport which has a proven track record of helping young children manage their aggression, increase their aspirations and effort, and modify their behaviour for their own benefit and that of the communities from which they are drawn."
"From previous projects Spoon has found that rugby helps young people at risk of violence feel less threatened, it manages individual anger problems, and the discipline of the sport is helping young people fit into education and employment."
Nic Scott, RFU Equity, Inclusion and Safeguarding Manager, commented: "Our experience working with disadvantaged or excluded young people in the past, has demonstrated the positive impact of rugby as a mechanism for building trust, self-esteem and confidence in young people. To be part of this programme takes us closer to our goal of rugby as a wholly inclusive game and allows us not only to develop the rugby skills of participants, but also be part of helping them fulfil their potential as individuals."
Hannah Willis, Associate Director, Global Community Investment at Barclays, said: "We are delighted to be adding this initiative to the others we are working on as part of our Barclays Spaces for Sports programme. We know already from the feedback we are getting from our community sites and other projects the positive impact that opportunities through sport can deliver for young people, not only in terms of tackling issues such as crime and anti-social behaviour, but also in developing their skills and confidence and improving academic performance."
Ian Thompstone, Director of Operations at The Enterprise Education Trust, said: "I am naturally delighted with this exciting new joint initiative with Wooden Spoon, Barclays Spaces for Sports and the RFU. By working together The Enterprise Education Trust and The RFU will be able to show young people that the disciplines of sport and the business world are one and the same, they are interchangeable and are the disciplines required for success in any walk of life. I am convinced this initiative will make a huge difference to the participants."
The partnership will encourage young people to return to education, enter training programmes or secure employment. To assist with this, participants will gain academic credits which build towards formal qualifications. Barclays will also support training young people in how to look after their finances, as part of the Barclays Money Skills initiative.