Tackling exclusion through HITZ

HITZ is a high profile programme that is based in the heart of inner city estates, targeting young people at risk of exclusion and anti social behaviour. It introduces them to tag, touch and contact rugby and encourages them to take their game further.

HITZ session

HITZ session

I have seen for myself the huge impact that HITZ has on young people’s lives.

For example, John* first picked up a rugby ball when he was sixteen, a year and a half ago. He had never played the game before, and was uncertain in himself and in his skills. Now John is going into schools to coach younger children, gaining leadership and coaching experience as well as developing his own rugby skills.

In another case, Chantelle* previously didn’t think that girls could play rugby. When she first joined HITZ earlier this year, she was quiet, shy and withdrawn. Six months on, she bounds into each session, grin on her face. Her mother and teachers alike can’t believe how much confidence she has changed – “she’s like a totally different person now”.

These are just a couple of examples of the ways in which HITZ impacts positively lives of those young people that take part in the sessions, which are run at key times after school.

It is not just the participants who make the sessions special though – the dedicated rugby players who run them have developed a deep understanding of the young people they are working with.

They develop working relationships with the teachers in the local schools, get to know the participant’s peers and take a genuine interest in their lives – from their GSCE results to advising them when they are in trouble.

And some of them are in trouble – it is thought around a third of those participating in the sessions were known to the police. The sessions tackle social exclusion as well as delivering health outputs. Running sessions with the Met police encourage stronger relationships between the police and young people, helping bridge the gaps that seemed evident in the recent riots across the UK.

This, combined with teaching participants how to develop their emotions (a huge 73 per cent say that the sessions has helped them control their anger), means that the young people taking part are able to feel part of their communities, and reduces their likelihood of offending.

It is telling that HITZ is getting bigger – more young people are taking part and going on to coach themselves, more teachers are coming to us thrilled with the effect that HITZ is having on individuals in their classes, and more sessions being run throughout London boroughs – and I am looking forward to it becoming bigger still.

*names have been changed to protect identities

‘Connecting Communities’ with BARA

I took part in great match last week that was put on by BARA, the British Asian Rugby Association. The third annual ‘Tag Time’ event got a number of rugby legends (including Martin Offiah, Abi Ekoku, Ady Spencer, and Jason Critchley) and MPs (including Greg Mullholland MP, Andy Reed MP and Neil Turner MP) together for a match to promote the ‘Connecting Communities’ Project, which the Leeds Rugby Foundation is doing with Leeds Metropolitan University to break down cultural barriers and proactively tackle inclusion within sport. The match took place in partnership with both the All Party Parliamentary Rugby League & Rugby Union Groups, and was held at the Harelquins Stoop. You can learn more on BARA’s site here.

Esther Rantzen backs anti bullying campaign

We’re launching a new partnership and anti-bullying programme with ChildLine this week, and I’m very excited about it. Here’s a bit from the press release:

Childine Founder and President Esther Rantzen welcomed Premier Rugby’s support for a new anti-bullying programme which will help over quarter of a million children to tackle bullying.

Boys and girls, aged 6 to 11, will take part in ‘Kicking Bullying Into Touch’, which will see each of the 12 Guinness Premiership Clubs and National Division One team Leeds Carnegie taking anti-bullying training into 780 primary schools over the next 18 months.

“As the daughter of a rugby player, the widow of a rugby player, and the mother of a rugby player, I am delighted that Premier Rugby has chosen to work with ChildLine. I hope this partnership will also raise awareness of ChildLine with families and raise the vital funds for our Child’s Voice Appeal so that 500,000 more children every year will be counselled by ChildLine volunteers by 2011.”

The new scheme marks the launch of national Anti-Bullying Week (17-21 November).

As well as the schools based education programme, Premier Rugby is dedicating Round 20 of the Guinness Premiership into a fund and awareness building weekend for Childline, just as the Premiership clubs did, so successfully, last season with Breast Cancer Care.

Premier Rugby’s Community Manager, Wayne Morris said: “The Kicking Bullying Into Touch programme is a great way for us to use our unique assets, namely our club brands and players, to tackle an issue that is very high on the government’s agenda. Rugby thrives on its diversity, where all different types of people come together to create a successful team. By using some of the key skills in the game, within the inclusive environment rugby generates, we believe the programme will make a real difference to the lives of young children.”

For more information about the partnership go to www.childline.org.uk.

Later this week I’ll have some of the videos that players made for the campaign.

Welcome to the 2008-9 Rugby Season!

Hi, I’m Wayne Morris, Community Manager for Premier Rugby.  As our new season kicks off, I’d like to take the chance to give you an overview of the community work that’s coming up…

Our goal is to put community investment at the heart of the work we do as a professional sport.  Our Chief Executive Mark McCafferty gives us an overview of the community season ahead in this recent interview:

(To learn more about the sports season itself, listen to Mark’s interview on that subject here.)

We know that by engaging with local communities we cannot just help encourage kids to play rugby, but we can also make a contribution to dealing with other social problems.

Rugby is a great sport and a great way to encourage people to stay active but we think our brands, our players and our facilities can go beyond just addressing physical activity. Our programmes also set out to tackle social issues like health, social inclusion, education, and anti-bullying.

If you’d like to know more about our community policies, partnerships and programmes, don’t hesitate to contact me.

Below is an update on some of our most recent community projects:

Positive Futures

We’ve been working this summer on a few new areas, one of which has been a social inclusion pilot project with Positive Futures in London. To find out more about it, visit our Positive Futures blog post here and listen to a series of interviews with London Active Communities CEO Gary Stannett and others who participated or helped deliver the scheme.

EDF Energy Schools Programme

I am also delighted that we’re starting a new season of the world’s largest rugby-based community programme – the EDF Energy National Schools Rugby Programme, a national programme that has exposed thousands of 8-10 year olds to tag rugby. All twelve clubs in the Guinness Premiership participate; last fall the EDF Energy programme celebrated reaching 500 schools and we hope to reach 112,000 children by July 2009. (The government recognised the achievements of the programme last year when the National Sports Foundation awarded it a grant of almost £200,000.)

Wooden Spoon and the NSPCC

We have also got some interesting new programmes coming with the Wooden Spoon and the NSPCC. But more of that shortly…

Could Rugby Be the New Boxing?

Caught this article in the Guardian this week:

This is the London Boxing Academy Community Project in north London, which provides a last chance of education for disengaged inner-city pupils more familiar with the criminal justice system than the inside of a classroom. The boxing ring gets them through the door then, in return for the training, they must attend lessons in an adjacent building. If they want to play a full part in sport they also need to stay off drugs.

It sounds a lot like Bristol Rugby’s Inferno programme, which won the Innovation Award at the Parliamentary Citizenship Awards last month.

Saracens and Bath share Community ‘Club of the Year’ Title

On Wednesday, representatives from Bath Rugby, Saracens and Newcastle Falcons all came to Portcullis House at Parliament to give presentations on their community work in front of a panel of judges in order to determine which club should be Community ‘Club of the Year.’

This whole process started last week, when a panel of assessors shortlisted Bath, Saracens and Newcastle for Club of the year and also determined the winners of the Innovation and Impact Awards, two new awards this year for individual programmes clubs are running.

Assessment Day

The assessors included representatives from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), Department of Health, Positive Futures, and the CSR Department of BT Wholesale. They reviewed materials that clubs submitted through Business in the Community’s Clubs that Count tracker.

Assessment Day

They awarded Bristol Rugby with the Innovation Award (for an innovative new programme started in the past 12 months) for its Inferno Programme, which tackles social inclusion by teaching rugby (and life) skills to young offenders at HMP Ashfield. Bath Rugby and Sale Sharks were also highly commended for their Language Through Sport and School of Hard Knocks programmes respectively.

Newcastle Falcons won the Impact Award (for an established programme able to demonstrate the positive impact it’s making on its community) for its Touch Rugby programme, which gets 950 adults active each year (40% of which are female, 35% of which haven’t done any form of physical activity in past year). Bath Rugby was also highly commended for its Wilts / Sportsmatch Girls Rugby Programme.

And then for the main event this past Wednesday: Bath Rugby, Saracens and Newcastle Falcons all gave their presentations before the judging panel, which included Derek Wyatt, Paul Farrelly, and Andy Reed, MPs from the All-Party Parliamentary Rugby Group, as well as Louise Poole, Head of Sponsorship at EDF Energy, Tanja Rasmussen, Community Investment Campaign Director, and Mark McCafferty, Chief Executive of Premier Rugby.

Bath presenting at the final

The judges were impressed by the scale and scope of the community work they saw, and by the partnerships and investments the clubs have been making in their communities. In the end they awarded the ‘Club of the Year’ award to both Saracens and Bath Rugby—Saracens for their sheer professionalism and the way their community foundation that has continued to grow and innovate, and Bath for how far they’ve come in such a short time period and the way they put community work into the ethos of the club.

All the awards were presented at an evening reception at the House of Commons.

From left: Gordon Banks and Hannah Pirnie from Saracens, Louise Poole from EDF Energy, Jimmy Deane from Bath Rugby

Up next on the blog I’ll be posting the Powerpoint presentations from the finalists and video of the judges so you can hear what they thought in their own words.

Hard Knocks from the Sale Sharks

The Rugby Club programme on Sky Sports recently concluded a six part series that showed how rugby skills from the pitch helped a group of men in Liverpool become more employable. Sale Sharks ran the ‘School of Hard Knocks’ scheme in conjunction with Creative Training; at the end of the intensive 16 week programme, ten of the participants had found jobs (and the remaining five are still actively seeking employment). Participating in sport helped these men become more confident, motivated and enthusiastic. While many Premier Rugby programmes focus on schoolchildren, this programme is a great example of the good sport can do for adults as well. You can watch all six parts of the series on the Sky Sports website by clicking here.