Press release: Nicky Morgan launches rugby character drive with Saracens FC

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan today (10 September 2015) joined rugby stars and coaches at a London school to launch a scheme using the skills of rugby coaches to instil character in disaffected and disadvantaged children.

At Goldbeaters Primary School in Edgware, north London, the Education Secretary joined Saracens coaches and former Premiership stars Hugh Vyvyan and Chris Bell, who were introducing children to the basic rugby skills that improve discipline, teamwork and resilience.

In the year of England hosting the Rugby World Cup, the government is funding 14 professional clubs to design and deliver programmes. All 12 Aviva Premiership clubs, plus Worcester Warriors and Bristol, will work with local pupils through the scheme.

The scheme will reach more than 17,000 pupils in schools across the country, as well as providing an intensive 33-week training course for almost 500 young people who are not in education, employment or training (NEET).

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said:

All young people can learn from rugby – it teaches you how to bounce back from defeat, how to respect others and how to work together.

That is why, in the year we host the Rugby World Cup, we are funding some of our best rugby clubs to go into schools and transform the lives of disaffected and disadvantaged children.

This is about delivering on our goal of achieving real social justice by helping children from all backgrounds to fulfil their potential. Today’s event shows the ethos of rugby can inspire young people to be more confident and resilient, and I encourage as many schools as possible to take part.

Hugh Vyvyan, former Saracens FC captain and the most capped Premiership player in history, said:

Working in the community is intrinsic to what we do at Saracens, so we are proud to be one of the 12 Premiership Rugby clubs delivering the On the Front Foot programme. We believe it has the potential to change the lives of young people across England.

Bringing the core values of rugby into a child’s life early on can make a huge difference. Rugby is the perfect sport to be able to teach character education because it’s built on the teamwork and respect.

Chris Bell, former Wasps RFC star and now Wasp’s Head of Off-Field Player Development, said:

It’s great to see the government partnering with Premiership Rugby and bringing the core values of respect, teamwork, enjoyment, discipline and sportsmanship into the classroom.

The profile of the sport will grow hugely over the next few months, so this is the perfect time to use that exposure for good and use the influence and the core values to help benefit society as a whole.

Wayne Morris, Head of CSR and Community at Premiership Rugby, said:

At Premiership Rugby our community programmes are one of our key priorities, as we passionately believe in the power of rugby to deliver social change. On the Front Foot is also the perfect way to create an even stronger legacy for rugby in England.

What we see now is young people coming out of schools with good academic qualifications, but what we’re starting to understand is that for them to really succeed in life, that they need more than that. They need the character traits to prepare them for further education, work and society as a whole and On The Front Foot will help deliver that.

Today, children at Goldbeaters Primary School will enjoy both classroom and playing field-based activities. Pupils will be split into groups for sessions on leadership and teamwork delivered by a Saracens coach in the classroom, before venturing out to the playing field for ice-breaker rugby games, one-on-one skill games and small-sided matches.

The project, which will receive more than £500,000, is 1 of 14 that will receive a share of £3.5 million through the Department for Education’s character grants scheme. The grants are designed to expand initiatives that successfully improve the character of young people.

The character grants scheme is expected to improve the lives of almost 150,000 children in more than 1,100 schools. It will also provide evidence on effective practice and resources that will be shared with all schools across the country.

The government’s plan for education includes a £5 million pledge to ensure that more pupils leave school prepared for the challenges of life in modern Britain, including £4 million to reward and spread the character work of school and charities, and £1 million to research the most effective approaches.

King’s Leadership Academy, a free school in Warrington, was awarded £35,000 in recognition of being the national leader in promoting positive character traits in pupils. The school has embedded character in every aspect of school life, provides weekly public speaking and philosophy classes, ensures all pupils participate in the orchestra and teaches all children fencing.

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